African American Soldiers
As Director of the Presidio Army Museum, Eric Saul produced an exhibit on the history of the African American soldier in the United States Army. The exhibit was curated in 1977-1978, and opened at the Museum in a special ceremony in 1978.
The exhibit was entitled, Ready and Forward: The Story of the Black Soldier in the United States Army. The exhibit told the story of African American soldiers from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam. The exhibit featured a unique collection of unpublished photographs of African American soldiers from the period of the Indian Wars through World War I. Many of these photographs were obtained from actual African American veterans of this period. These photographs were shown for the first time.
In addition, a unique collection of photographs was obtained from the Signal Corps collection of the National Archives and from the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Some photographs were obtained directly from the United States Army Signal Corps collection. These photographs depicted the era of World War II through the Vietnam era. Many of these photographs were also exhibited for the first time.
The exhibit was created in cooperation with Anthony Powell and Lieutenant Colonel Donald R. Sims, who was the Director of DPTSEC at the Presidio of San Francisco. Colonel Sims was an African American veteran of Vietnam and was personally decorated with the Silver Star, awarded to him by President Lyndon Johnson.
The guest of honor at the opening of the Ready and Forward exhibit was African American Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Lawrence Joel. Joel was the keynote speaker. In addition, he donated his Class A uniform, which was featured in the exhibit.
The exhibit was shown in 1984 at the African American Museum of History and Culture in Los Angeles, California. The exhibit was curated at that museum by Lonnie Bunch, III. Lonnie Bunch is currently the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The exhibit was reshown at the Presidio Army Museum in 1994 as part of the U.S. Postal Service’s celebration of the issuing of a commemorative postage stamp honoring the Buffalo Soldier.
The Ready and Forward exhibit has been on tour throughout the United States since 1995, being shown at numerous venues.
The Ready and Forward exhibit was an outstanding success for the Presidio Army Museum. Many African American veterans visited the Museum during its showing. This exhibit inspired a series of other exhibits depicting the role of other minority groups in the United States Army. These included the story of Japanese American soldiers in World War II, which opened in 1981, the role of women in the United States Army, which opened in 1983, and the story of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the United States Army during World War II, which opened in 1985. The Japanese American exhibit, entitled Go For Broke, was adapted for a special exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. It opened in September 1987 as a featured program celebrating the 200th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution and was shown for more than two decades.