Q&A: Buffalo Soldiers Live On at Fort Verde State Historic Park

Buffalo Soldier re-enactors. | Courtesy of Fort Verde State Historic Park

Each of the past 10 years, Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde has hosted a look back at a key part of American military history.

The Buffalo Soldiers were members of the first African-American regiments of the U.S. Army. Formed in the 1860s, the regiments fought in the Indian Wars, which occurred in present-day Arizona and other Western and Plains states.

The state park honors the Buffalo Soldiers’ legacy with an annual re-enactment event, and this year’s edition is this Saturday, February 18, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Along with learning the history of the Buffalo Soldiers, visitors can watch a vintage baseball game, with participants dressed in period replica uniforms, as well as demonstrations of how to cook Dutch oven meals.

Arizona Highways spoke with Red Turner, a re-enactor (also known as a “living historian”) participating in Saturday’s event, about what he does, what inspired his passion for history and the challenges he faces when it comes to his work.

How many years have you been participating in the Buffalo Soldier re-enactments at Fort Verde State Historic Park?
This is my third year out there in Arizona. I currently live in California.

How did you get into being a living history presenter?
I joined the New Buffalo Soldiers, based out of Los Angeles, and did things like the Rose Parade. We travel all over California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. We do about 20 to 25 events a year.

It all started after I retired. I’ve always been interested in history. I enjoy reading historical publications. I get different magazines in the mail from all over the country and saw an ad for living historians. My wife did the same thing with the Historical Citizens Association.

What motivated you to join?
People are hungry for history right now. There was a real need for good representation, and it was a good time to educate others. After seeing a need for living historians, I jumped right in to fill the gap.

Before becoming a living historian, what line of work were you in?
I’m retired from law enforcement, and now I do special operations training for the military.

What are some of the challenges that someone interested in becoming a living historian should know about?
Being a living historian is a lot of work. It’s a lot of research. You spend a lot of money on accurate costuming. When you say “living historian,” people think of it as a hobby, but it’s really a lifestyle. That’s the part that is a challenge, but it makes it all worth it when you see the faces of students, or people who show up for these events to learn something.

— Roman Russo

For more information about Saturday’s event, visit Fort Verde State Historic Park’s website.

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