One might think it would be easy to determine which soldiers served with the Cavalry Detachment at West Point, but the Army did not keep records of those serving in the active-duty units at West Point, regardless of their time or race. The Cavalry Detachment officers were members of the West Point faculty and are documented in West Point yearbooks, but sources that identify the enlisted men are few and far between.
For most, the best method of identifying those who lived one hundred ago requires connecting the dots among census records and other official documents generated during their lives. The 1925 team picture does not identify the team members, but several newspaper reports of their games identified the surnames of eighteen team members. After publishing the first article about the 1925 team, pictures of the 1928, 1929, and 1930 West Point Cavalry Detachment teams were found in period Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guides. Those pictures identified each player by surname, but were small -less than half the size of a dollar bill- and were printed on newspaper stock using the halftone (dotted) method, so they are relatively poor quality. Nevertheless, the images proved useful after being scanned and enlarged.
The 1925, 1928, 1929, and 1930 team pictures included sixty-eight enlisted members of the Cavalry Detachment, including various non-commissioned officers, plus seven white officers who commanded the detachment or were otherwise involved with the teams.
The next step in identifying the players was to search ancestry.com for individuals with the target surnames living in Highlands, Orange County, New York during the relevant period. In most cases, only one black male with the target surname was found and is assumed to be our man. For others, there were multiple matches from which their age or enlistment date eliminated one candidate or another. Fortunately, some matches had previous genealogical research completed by family members. In those cases, the relatives were contacted to obtain additional information, including family pictures.
Other information came from searches of a newspaper archive, West Point yearbooks, and military and assorted other documents. A 1938 Cavalry Detachment Christmas dinner program, a 1939 newspaper article with a complete list of the Detachment members, and a few other documents provided full names for some soldiers who played on the teams. The paper trails of career soldiers were easier to track than those who left the Army after one or two tours. The subgroup who left the peacetime Army and returned during WWII also left a more substantial trail.
Unfortunately, while New York completed a state census in 1925, detailed information is available only for those living in civilian housing outside the base. Thus, information is not available for most of the detachment that lived in the Cavalry Barracks. As a result, of the seventy-one surnames, only forty-two have been linked to census or other information.
Finally, each players' image from the 1928, 1929, and 1930 team pictures, and images from other sources, were compared against the 1925 team pictures. The image matching process is imperfect, but I've used the process here and here with good results. Although facial features, hair lines, hair color, and skin tone are important in the matching process, so are facial expressions or the tilt of the head, which are surprisingly consistent across images. The matching process for the 1925 team identified seven players and three white officers. You can judge the matching accuracy yourself using the images provided on the 1925-1926 team page. Similar pictures and player biographies are on the 1928 team page, 1929 team page, and 1930 team page.
The second image of the football team found in the National Archives shows eleven players lined up on offense. While I initially assumed the picture showed the 1925 team's starters and could be linked to the names of the starting lineup for the Lincoln University game, the combination does not match well. Hopefully, most will be identified over time.