Henri LeGendre, 85, visited Valhalla Middle School this morning to tell the story he said is missing from the history books. LeGendre joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and served as a soldier in the 9th Cavalry during World War II. Soldiers in his unit, as were many others, were known as “Buffalo Soldiers,” a name given to the all-black regiments by Native Americans. The term became synonymous for all black soldiers at the time, beginning with the first units formed in 1866.
LeGendre, wearing the traditional yellow and blue uniform with a wide-brim hat and scarf, told the seventh and eighth graders that history books gloss over the contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers. He shared stories of the varied missions of the all-black regiments, including patrolling the southern U.S. border during the war, protecting railroads and water supplies, and guarding settlers as they moved into the western parts of the U.S. and did battle with Native Americans.
“A lot of things I can tell you is not written in the history books,” said LeGendre, who moved to New York after his service, became an architect and served for 12 years on the Valhalla Board of Education. “It’s important to show the contributions we made.”
LeGendre, who now lives in North Carolina and is one of a couple hundred Buffalo soldiers still living, also told of the racism faced by the units, being segregated from other officers and mistreated by officers and civilians.
“Those were the days of segregation, that’s the way it was,” LeGendre said.
LeGendre will give talks tonight and through the weekend as part of Black History Month celebrations. His itinerary is below:
Whitney M. Young Jr. Society Scholarship Dinner, tonight at 7 p.m. at Valhalla Middle/High School, 300 Columbus Avenue, 914-683-5000.
Theodore D. Young Community Center, 32 Manhattan Ave. in Greenburgh, Saturday at 2:30 p.m., 914-682-3648.
St. Francis/St. Martha’s Episcopal Church, 575 Tarrytown Rd. in White Plains, Sunday at 10 a.m., 914-946-8846.
Photos: Above, Henri LeGendre prepares to sign autographs during a talk with students at Valhalla Middle School. (Photo by Dwight R. Worley). Left, a photograph of LeGendre during his service as a “Buffalo Soldier” in the U.S. Army’s 9th Cavalry. (Photo courtesy of LeGendre).