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  • / Comments Off on After Fellow Writing Students Criticized My Story, Saying “Slaves Can’t Think,” I Knew I Had to Write a Book About The Buffalo Soldiers

After Fellow Writing Students Criticized My Story, Saying “Slaves Can’t Think,” I Knew I Had to Write a Book About The Buffalo Soldiers

At age 23 in 1966, I was a freshly minted US Army second lieutenant. I had completed the armor officer’s basic course at Fort Knox and qualified at Fort Hood with state-of-the-art tank weapons. When my first army exercises proved successful, I thought I was ready – really ready. I volunteered for assignment to any armored or cavalry unit serving in Vietnam.

1LT Bob Rogers – Pleiku, Vietnam – 1967

Early in 1967, after administrative delays and travel to Saigon to Pleiku to Tuy Hoa, I, at last, took command of 1st Platoon, Troop A, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry. Minutes after reporting for duty with the troop commander, before I even drew a weapon, the first sergeant, a white southerner, called me aside. “Sir, do you know the story of the 10th?”

“No, First Sergeant. I first heard of the 10th just days ago.”

I was about to learn that the army was more than weapons and tactics. When the first sergeant handed me mimeographed pages of homework, my army education began – again!

I had no idea that I had just assumed command in a one-hundred-one-year old cavalry unit and that the 10th was one of two all-black cavalry regiments authorized by Congress in 1866 – the Buffalo Soldiers!


But, wait. There’s more.

In 1877, the first black man to graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point was assigned to Company A, 10th Cavalry. Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper, a former slave, served the 10th for five years. Though a “history buff,” I knew none of this – not in my high school or college books. All I knew was the famous 7th Cavalry from the movies.

By the time I was promoted to captain and in an airborne assignment, I had all but laid my cavalry heritage aside. During an army project with IBM, I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse; I left the army for a career in IT.

Decades passed before my interest in the Buffalo Soldiers was rekindled. A chance encounter at a shopping center with a retired sergeant brought back memories. The sergeant invited me to a meeting of retirees, including Brigadier General George Price. We formed the Baltimore Chapter of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association.

Before the Internet became a thing, one received sales flyers via snail mail. The noted artist-historian, Don Stivers, sent me a flyer announcing the release of his painting titled: “Proud to Serve.” In Don’s painting, a black soldier leads a saddled cavalry horse. Admiring the flyer, I said, to no one in particular, “Someone should write his story.” Across the room, my wife said, “Why don’t you write it?” Not realizing that she had heard me, my jaw dropped. Huh? Me? The chemistry major, turned soldier, turned IT guy?

For guidance, I enrolled in creative writing at the University of Maryland. Two lessons emerged that shaped First Dark. As expected, I learned basics of the craft. A learning bonus emerged when I presented a chapter to classmates. I was not ready for this challenge: “Your story is totally unrealistic. Everybody knows slaves can’t think. So, how could one be a blacksmith – much less plan an escape?”



Another jaw dropping experience…

Upon hearing that “revelation,” I scrapped my “Buffalo Soldier only story” idea. Instead, First Dark would begin during slavery – two years before the end of America’s Uncivil War and three years before the Buffalo Soldiers. To chip away at the ignorance that I thought existed in the population, as confirmed by my classmates, I added needed context of the times: enslaved life, the black codes, the violence of the Reconstruction era, and westward expansion. That meant including characters (non-fictional and fictional) who were Native American, Mexican, European American, and African American. It also meant interviews with their descendants who are now farmers, museum curators, librarians, professors, historians, authors, and business owners – plus, digesting many history books and hundreds of 19th century hand-written documents and personal letters.

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  • / Comments Off on Defeat Fake News!

Defeat Fake News!

Defeat Fake News –“Friend” a Librarian!

Where are the “facts?”  It appears that in a “postfact” epoch, there may be cause to question the need for

Queue at the Reference Desk.

Queue at the Reference Desk.

assistance for stalwarts who seek “real facts.”  Perhaps it is time to add Reference Librarians to the shrinking list of neutral purveyors of truth and make our way to our local library.  Boldly walk where too few walk today, face the Reference Desk and ask directions to the facts on a wide range of topics–from multinational trade deals to climate change, from robot-assisted manufacturing to four decades of declining wages suffered by the 99%.  At the Reference Desk, it may be appropriate to use a line from television’s Dragnet character, Sergeant Joe Friday, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

The original search engine.

The original search engine.

“Friend” and support your local library by donating through the library’s Friends organization, or by volunteering, or do both.  Here are examples of Friends in action at two libraries in Georgia and North Carolina.  Find a “Friends of the Library” group where you live.

Charlotte, North Carolina:  The Friends Council began in 1982 as the Friends of

Charlotte's Main Library

Charlotte’s Main Library

the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the Library through grassroots advocacy and fundraising.  In 2013, the Friends of the Library joined the newly-formed Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation and became the Friends Council. With the new name came an expanded role: To engage broad community support for the Library through community awareness and fundraising events as part of the Foundation’s overall strategic plan.

Decatur Library

Decatur Library

Decatur, Georgia:  The purposes of the Friends of the Decatur Public Library are charitable, literary and educational. These purposes are:

  • to develop activities that focus public attention on library service, programs and collections
  • to encourage financial support of libraries
  • to be actively interested in all cultural and educational aspects of the community
  • and to give support to the Friends of the Library at national, state and local levels.
Patron and a Reference Librarian at Penn State.

Patron and a Reference Librarian at Penn State.

Know more from the American Library Association…  Competencies for Reference Librarians


  • / Comments Off on Getting Started in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Getting Started in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Greetings from down south!

My recording booth and computers are connected as of today!  All tests were positive on the first try.

My first Merida recording is attached below for your amusement.  The recording is less than two minutes long.

Monday, 16 July will be the first day of book project work in Merida.  Feels strange not to have written a word on book number six since mid-May.  Can’t wait to get started!

Be well and do all the good you can for all the people you can.


My favorite place in Merida

  • / Comments Off on In America, Race Matters

In America, Race Matters

This post was first released in my Newsletter at 1900, Wednesday, 17 June 2015, two hours before the Charleston Massacre.

Editorial June 2015 watermarked copy

In Memorial… Trayvon, Tamir, Freddie, William T., and Unknowns


In America, race matters.  Race mattered when the first Europeans landed in the Americas.  Greed led to the enslavement, first of aboriginals, and when that failed, greed led to extermination and eradication.  To turn the all-important economic wheels of an agrarian era, the new European Americans enslaved Africans.  European Americans of means made laws that codified a new culture based on the artificial construct called race.  Over time, class and caste became integral and vital parts of the new order and were layered with race.

Implementation and systemic integration of these elements were highly successful.  Hate and fear of aboriginals and Africans was taught to succeeding generations enabling poor European Americans to carry out extermination of aboriginals and assist in keeping many African Americans enslaved for hundreds of years – until as recently as World War II.  Twentieth century technology and political pressures brought by African Americans, and some European Americans, made contributions that led to the end of the codified foundation of economic oppression, disenfranchisement, and American Apartheid.

Nonetheless, in the twenty-first century, there are European Americans who carry on the tradition of handing down to the succeeding generation two things: hate and fear.

Do all European Americans do this?  No.  Of course, not.  Are fewer and fewer European Americans participating in perpetuation of hate and fear?  I see anecdotal evidence that this is true.

I recently found four words that exemplify in some way that we are generations away from an America where “[all] children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but [only] by the content of their character.”

These four twenty-first century words are from a toilet stall door in a North Carolina public building: “niggers are killing America.”

Perhaps, the nineteenth century American unCivil War is still being fought…

From the twentieth century movie South Pacific, hear the late John Kerr sing “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”


  • / Comments Off on Give Thanks for Teachers

Give Thanks for Teachers

Give thanks for our teachers.  Their toil and sacrifice is a national treasure, for they enable all the

A Teacher in Action

A Colorado Teacher in Action

professions our country will require for a successful economy, good health, leading technology, abundant food, security, and more.  Our teachers are of far greater importance to America’s posterity than the value placed on them by policymakers and the public.

In a study updated in 2014, Harvard economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, tracked 2.5 million students from the same urban school district over 20 years, from fourth grade to adulthood. The study found that “students assigned to higher quality teachers are more successful in many dimensions. They are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods, and save more for retirement. They are also less likely to have children as teenagers. Teachers’ impacts on earnings are also similar in percentage terms for students from low and high income families.”

Learn more about what teachers are doing in public high schools from honored young teachers: 2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb and 2014 North Carolina Teacher of the Year James E. Ford.

Presidential Candidate Barack Obama in 2008: “The single most important factor in determining [student] achievement is not the color of their skin or where they come from. It’s not who their parents are or how much money they have. It’s who their teacher is.”

Thank a teacher.

  • / Comments Off on Women Spies of the Civil War

Women Spies of the Civil War

After reading The Laced Chameleon, a growing number of people are asking if a woman could have performed the

Harriet Tubman was also a spy.

Harriet Tubman was also a spy.

roles attributed to Francesca Dumas in 1862. Of course, the answer is, “Yes!”

An 1876 book, written by former Confederate spy Loreta Valezquez, inspired several of Francesca’s antics, including disguising herself as a male. Valezquez’s book and H. Donald Winkler’s Stealing Secrets are included in the bibliography of The Laced Chameleon.

For further quick reading, see the Smithsonian article: Women Spies of the Civil War. “Hundreds of women served as spies during the Civil War. Here’s a look at six who risked their lives in daring and unexpected ways…”


  • / Comments Off on An Interview with Bob Rogers

An Interview with Bob Rogers

Today, Buffalo Soldier Sentinel Ezine is pleased to interview Bob Rogers about his new historical novel The Laced Chameleon.

Bob Rogers, an IBMer for thirty-three years, is a former army captain, Vietnam War veteran, and a member of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association.  Bob is an avid baseball fan and lives in Charlotte.

BSSE:  Welcome, Bob. I’m always interested in talking to historical novelists. To start out, will you tell us a little about the historical setting of The Laced Chameleon and the time period it spans?

Bob: Thanks, BSSE. It’s my pleasure to visit with you.  The Laced Chameleon spans five months.  It begins in New Orleans’ wet spring of 1862 and ends in the heat of August.  This is the second summer of the American Civil War.  The war has gone well for the Confederacy until the spring of 1862 and the emergence of little a known brigadier named Ulysses S. Grant.  The book begins the day New Orleans was captured by the Union, April 25, 1862.

BSSE:  Describe your book for our readers.

Bob: The Laced Chameleon is a mystery.  New Orleans native Francesca Dumas becomes a rookie homicide detective to avenge the murder of her Caucasian lover.

BSSE: How did your book come about?

Bob: In America, race matters. Within the artificial construct of race, color and class have mattered for centuries, and still matter today.  I wrote about class within the African American community in my first novel.  A class issue provided background drama.  In The Laced Chameleon, class within the black and white races is primary.  My interest in class began during my late teens with mulatto and quadroon stories I heard in South Carolina’s Low Country.  In this book, I highlight attitudes and patterns centuries old that contribute to race and class matters in 21st America.

BSSE: Can you tell us about the story and a bit about the main characters?

Bob: The Laced Chameleon is dramatic irony in the rich tradition of the TV series, Columbo.

The protagonist, FRANCESCA DUMAS, is a quadroon courted by moneyed white men.  She leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns and lavish balls until a bullet shatters her dream world.  While awaiting arrival of the Union Navy atop a Mississippi River levee April 25, 1862, Francesca’s lover is shot dead.    She begins her stint as a novice homicide detective to find his murderer.

As Francesca’s story unfolds, we learn that she and her lover, a wealthy banker, are bound in a concubinage contract called plaçage, which was an extralegal arrangement that had begun centuries earlier.  She was educated in the 1850s by a new order of black Catholic nuns, the Sisters of the Holy Family.  Francesca’s father is a French restaurateur who owns her and her mulatto mother. Francesca’s mother teaches her that life in a plaçage arrangement will give her security.  When her man is shot dead, Francesca vows revenge though she has no idea how she will find the perpetrator.  In the meantime, her investigation into the plight of a homeless hungry white woman and her children lands her work with Union spy-master John Mahan.

TROY DODSON joins the Third Louisiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment and sees action in the first year of the Civil War in Missouri. Wounded during the Confederate victory at the Battle of Willow Creek, Troy returns home to New Orleans and becomes a spy for Confederate General Mansfield Lovell. Ambitious and ruthless, Troy commits murder to elevate his family into the planter class. Troy is an avid fan and disciple of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens.

PHILIPE ROUSSEAU is an aging homicide detective when Union Forces take control of New Orleans. Though beleaguered by local politics, a manpower shortage in the corrupt police force, and Union martial law, Philipe becomes a mentor to Francesca in her stumbling attempt to solve a murder case.

In addition to Mahan and Lovell, two other nonfictional characters of note are General Benjamin Butler and Mother Henriette Delille.

BSSE: What has been your experience with the subject of your book?

 Bob: When I was ten years old, I fought Jim Crow, and lost.  Actually, my adversary was a white teenager who was more than a foot taller than me and had ordered me off the sidewalk.  I refused to move.  He beat me until he was tired.  I fought my best fight, but was badly beaten.  After a time, he realized that beating me would not cause me to yield—not even after suffering a black eye and a bloody nose.  I could see barely well enough through my tears and swollen eye to remain on the sidewalk.

Once upon a time, there was a “fair” maiden, during my high school days, whose aunt told her that she was wasting her time on me—someone who would not amount to much.  The next time it happened, it was more my fear of rejection by a “fair” damsel at college who came from a solid middle class family.  My environment had conditioned me to think small and stay in my place—racially and socially (until my early twenties).

BSSE: How does it relate to what happens in your story?

Bob: Francesca is buffeted by and witnesses the behavior of people who believe in white supremacy.  Just as I was, she was taught at an early age what was expected of her race and class and what she must do to survive and thrive.

BSSE: What are some of the rules or prejudices you’d like to see changed about your subject?

Bob: I hope that someday, we will be able to move out of our comfort zones and reach out to others who do not look the same or believe the same.  It is my hope that someday, we can engage, walk in each other’s shoes and supplant common stereotypes.   Perhaps, someday we will find ways to move pass racism and classism.

BSSE: How did you do your background research?

Bob: My research was both primary and secondary.  I used the memories of senior citizens to learn which book sources or letters to trust or ignore.  In museums and libraries, I found books and documents that led to more books and documents.

Though not required, each of my novels has a bibliography on its web page.

BSSE: Where do you research information for your books?

Bob: I use history books, letters, and interviews.  I also use government agencies–State Parks, the National Parks Service, the Smithsonian Institute, museums, public libraries, the Library of Congress, universities, state archives, the National Archives, and of course, the Internet.

BSSE: How has the community responded to your work?

Bob: So far, my first two novels have received five-star reviews.

BSSE: How did your work on this get started?

Bob: The Laced Chameleon was born in long discussions with my editor about her and my experiences with Jim Crow.  We both knew the mulatto and quadroon stories.  I decided to dramatize what we knew.

BSSE: Where do your characters come from?

Bob: Francesca Dumas, the protagonist in The Laced Chameleon, came from a previous novel, First Dark, in which she was identified as a New Orleanian.  My novels are dialogue-driven and based on drama in the lives of ordinary people.  The main characters are composites based on my research.  The minor characters are caricatures of people I have met or observed over many years.  Their names match the time period in which they lived and are sometimes taken from members of my family.  Infrequently, I include names for characters requested by readers.

BSSE: What do you find to be most exciting about the people in your books?

Bob: I find discovery to be very exciting.

In New Orleans after photographing the old Orleans Ballroom, I happened upon a sidewalk plaque commemorating Mother Henriette Delille, the founder of The Sisters of the Holy Family.  That discovery led to an interview with the order’s historian and more books about the period in which The Laced Chameleon is set.

On another occasion, while researching the construction and capacity of freight wagons used by merchants before the railroads went very far west, I learned that a former slave and carpenter from Kentucky, by the name of Hiram Young, formed a successful company in Missouri and built wagons.  In addition to merchants and freighters, he built wagons for the Union Army.

BSSE: How did you get your start in writing?

Bob: My inspiration to write came from a 1991 flyer announcing a new painting by the late artist-historian, Don Stivers.  Don depicted a young 19th century African American cavalryman walking beside his horse.  As I held the flyer, I remembered how strange it felt to have graduated from a university and not have heard of the Buffalo Soldiers until 1967 when I was assigned to the Tenth Cavalry in Vietnam.  Holding the flyer, I said aloud, “This man’s story ought to be told.”

BSSE: What, if anything, lit the “spark” to get you started and keep you motivated?

Bob: In a word, it’s remembrance.  I hope my novels will entertain and inform this and future generations of our past.  I hope my descendants and their peers, for years to come, will discover and remember that we had ancestors who, with meager means, established thriving businesses.

My protagonists are ordinary Americans.  My characters and their comrades built forts, roads, established small business, and put up telegraph lines.  They examined the role models of the day, which, once slaves themselves, had become successful entrepreneurs.

BSSE: What are you currently working on?

Bob: My next novel is titled Time Was and is set between the latter days of the Gilded Age and the beginning of the Roaring Twenties in America and Europe.  I have begun interviews of seniors in their eighties for an untitled novel set between 1945 and 1956 in America and Asia.

BSSE: What are your favorite and least favorite things about being a writer?

Bob: My favorite two things are discovery and life-long learning.  Least favorites include creating marketing copy instead of novels and finding agents, editors, publicists, and journalists.

BSSE: What do you do in your spare time, when you aren’t writing?

Bob: I am an avid baseball fan.  When I get a break, I am in the stadium watching the Charlotte Knights or the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers.  I am also a volunteer IT manual writer and instructor, teaching senior citizens to use computers and the Internet.  Every year, my wife and I enjoy planting small spring and fall vegetable gardens.

BSSE: What was a recent book you read and would you recommend it?

Bob: Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns is one of the most impressive books I have read.  Other Suns tells a story that African Americans my age and much older have seen, if not lived.  The mass migration of a people within the borders of their home country is unusual and have root in an important common motivation.  In a nut shell, Wilkerson follows the lives of three people from different states that chose different destinations.  She gives an important look back at those who decided not to migrate as well as illustrating the new lives of the migrants and their off springs in the new land.  They voted with their feet to leave the American South.

Wilkerson’s Other Suns brought back childhood memories of my wanting to leave my native South Carolina and follow my cousins to New Jersey and New York.  To tell the truth, my boyhood motive was really to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play at Ebbets Field.  I hoped to see my hero, Don Newcombe, pitch.

My father was one of the millions who decided that the new lands of the north and west were no utopia.  He thought one would find as much evil, and unfamiliar evil at that, in the new lands as we experienced in the Jim Crow south.  Dad said, “This is the devil I know.”

I highly recommend Wilkerson’s book to all Americans–and, to folks beyond our borders.

BSSE: How have the books you’ve read influenced the books you write?

Bob: In my opinion, Herman Wouk’s Rumors of War and War and Remembrance set the bar for historical fiction. His thoroughly researched novels about World War II were very entertaining with compelling human drama while getting the facts right as he told the story of the war alongside the drama.  Herman Wouk’s novels have set high standards for me.

BSSE: What do you do when you’re having writer’s block to “shake” it off?

Bob: Having had it only once, I don’t have a remedy of which to speak.  That once, I tried to make something appear on the page until I fell asleep.  I had a dream about a buffalo hunt and awoke at four in the morning.  I had dreamed the buffalo hunt scene that appears in First Dark.  I wrote it exactly as it appeared in my dream.

BSSE: What are your favorite types of books?

Bob: As you may have guessed, I like historical fiction.  I also like thrillers, detective mysteries, biographies, memoirs, and history.

BSSE: What do you enjoy more, writing or discovering other people’s work?

Bob: That’s a hard question.  I think I like writing more.  But, two treasured discoveries come to mind – the Balls.  As far as I know, the late Eve Ball of Kansas and New Mexico was not related to Edward Ball of South Carolina linage.  Eve’s books were pointed out to me by an Apache historian as trusted sources on the lives and mistreatment of the Apaches.  In the archives of a university, I uncovered her letters to C.L. Sonnichen, another trusted source, regarding her interviews in the mid-20th century with Apaches who remembered late 19th century wars against the United States.

Edward’s book, Slaves in the Family, gave me rare and fresh insight into the views of families, like his, that held slaves.

BSSE: Where can we learn more about The Laced Chameleon and your other novels?

Bob: Please visit my web site at

BSSE: Thanks, Bob.

Bob: You’re welcome!  And thank you!

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