New documentary examines the often-contradictory role played by the Black soldiers throughout American history
Premiering June 12 on PBS and June 19 on Local, USA
PBS and WORLD Channel announced today the presentation of Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts, an award-winning documentary feature that explores the complex history of Black soldiers in the United States military. Director and producer Dru Holley weaves together the testimony of historians, experts and descendants of Buffalo Soldiers with archival photographs, reenactments and animation to tell the story of how newly free Black Americans enlisted in the U.S. Army, a reliable path to income and greater respect, and in the process helped to both fulfill America’s Manifest Destiny and disrupted the lives of Indigenous peoples. Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts will premiere Monday, June 12 at 10pm ET on PBS and Monday, June 19 at 8pm ET on Local, USA. The film will be available to stream online, on the PBS app, YouTube and on the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel.
“The rise and role of Black Americans in the military is an important and overlooked part of American history, from conflicts abroad and on Indigenous lands at home,” said Chris Hastings, executive producer for WORLD Channel at GBH in Boston. “WORLD Channel is proud to bring Buffalo Soldiers to viewers on Juneteenth. With this film we hope to honor the contributions of brave Black soldiers and officers, and to acknowledge the painful legacy of westward expansion and colonial pursuits.”
Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts, explores the often-contradictory role played by the Black soldiers throughout American history, with particular emphasis on the settling of the American West and colonialism abroad.
After the ratification of the 14th Amendment by Congress in 1868 granting full citizenship to Black men, many of them enlisted in the military. But they faced structural and social barriers to equal opportunity and fair treatment. Black soldiers helped lead the United States expansion westward; they helped build and guard transcontinental railroads and served as park rangers in places like Yosemite before the U.S. government established the National Park Service.
These Black soldiers fought bravely in the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, the Mexican Punitive Expedition, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. However, the Buffalo Soldiers also participated in the subjugation of Indigenous peoples as the United States appropriated tribal land, the persecution of striking silver miners in Idaho, and against Filipinos fighting for independence during the Spanish-American War, resulting in a complicated legacy.
"The Buffalo Soldiers are key American figures whose tenacity to battle against overwhelming odds in service to the country has forever shaped history,” said Sylvia Bugg, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager of General Audience Programming at PBS. “PBS is proud to present this eye-opening and deeply moving story to audiences this summer, directed by one of the selected creators from our Open Call for Emerging Filmmakers.”
Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts was produced and directed by Dru Holley, a filmmaker passionate about producing inspiring stories that empower viewers to re-think broken systems. Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts is his feature directorial debut.
“The story of the Buffalo Soldiers involves historical complexities like race, class, power, colonialism and western expansion. It is particularly relevant today as our country is roiling with the agony of racial strife,” said Holley. “As a Black filmmaker, I feel a responsibility to tell our story, to provide an inspiring story about history often left out of school textbooks. We want young kids to know the accounts of people like them that stretch across the nation, to have more knowledge of their past than we did.”
Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts is a film from PBS's Open Call for Emerging Filmmakers, which provides support for creators with unique ideas that will resonate, foster dialogue, and bring new engagement across the public media system. Whether in early concept stages or nearing completion, PBS will offer funding support for selected films that may be distributed across PBS platforms, including PBS.org and PBS Digital Studios. The films include a broad array of stories from a diversity of perspectives in genres ranging from arts & culture, personal history, social justice, health, immigration, economics, environment, democracy, and civics. Information about each film, creator and distribution partner will be announced on a rolling basis.
The film Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts was an official selection at the Seattle International Film Festival, Portland Film Festival, Astoria Film Festival and Vashon Film Festival in 2022. It was the 2022 Audience Award Winner at the Tacoma Film Festival.
Look into our promotional toolkit for sample social language and shareable graphics.
Discuss and engage with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok by using the hashtag #BuffaloSoldiersPBS and tagging us @worldchannel. Subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube for more features including events and interviews.