March 12, 2012

OURstory: Colonel Charles Young (1864-1922)

One of most courageous African Americans in the history of the U.S. military was Colonel Charles Young. I'm pleased to see that a saber owned by Col. Young was included in the America I AM exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center a few years ago.

Young was born March 12, 1864 to ex-slaves in Mayslick, Kentucky. His family moved to Ripley, Ohio, where he attended high school. After he graduated he taught in the Black high school in Ripley. Young was a professor at Wilberforce University. His house near Wilberforce is a National Historic Landmark.

He was the third African American to graduate from West Point in 1889. He graduated in spite of the hatred, bigotry and discrimination he encountered as an undergraduate.

His first assignment after graduation was with the Buffalo Soldiers in the 10th Cavalry in Nebraska, and then in the 9th and 10th Cavalries in Utah.

Young was then awarded a commission as a Major in the Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Later, during the Spanish-American War, he was in command of a squadron of the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers in Cuba.

After the war with Spain, Young was reassigned to Fort Duchesne in Utah where he encouraged Sergeant Major Benjamin O. Davis ... who later became the first African American to reach the rank of Army General.

In 1903 Captain Young was in command of the 10th Cavalry, who were segregated at the Presidio of San Francisco. He was assigned as the acting superintendent of Sequoia National Parks. During his supervisory tenure his troops built a road longer than all previous roads combined. Soon wagons and automobiles were winding their way to the mountain-top forest for the first time.

Young was sent to the Philippines to join his 9th regiment and command a squadron of two troops in 1908. Four years later he was once again selected for Military Attaché duty, this time to Liberia. For his service as adviser to the Liberian Government and his supervision of the building of the country's infrastructure, he was awarded the NAACP Springarn Medal.

Because of his exceptional leadership of the 10th Cavalry in the Mexican theater of war, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was briefly Fort Huachuca's commander in Texas.

Young was devoted to his wife Ada and their two children; son, Charles Jr. and daughter Marie. He was a renaissance man who played several instruments (piano, violin and guitar) and spoke several languages.

Colonel Charles Young was the highest ranking African American officer in the army when World War I started.

With the explosive arrival of WW1, the public, and especially African Americans considered the possibility of Young receiving a major leadership role in the war. He had met challenges of racism, bigotry, and discrimination embedded within society and within the military. He had shown himself to be exceptional, not only as an military officer, but also as a leader of men.

But justice and the rule of equality in the military were not for Lt. Colonel Charles Young. When he took his scheduled army physical, the doctors said his blood pressure was too high. Young and his comrades, his supporters, and the African American news media believed otherwise. On June 22, 1917, Young was retired, under protest.

The forced retirement didn't sit well with Lt. Col. Young. In June 1918 he made his way on horseback ... over 500 miles ... from Wilberforce OH to Washington DC to demonstrate that he was fit for duty. Once in DC, he asked the military for immediate reinstatement and command of a combat unit in Europe. Young was reinstated and promoted to full Colonel.

Col. Young, was assigned to Liberia as Military Attaché. He died at that post on January 8, 1922, while on a research expedition in Lagos, Nigeria.

6 comments:

vonnie said...

i was invited to monrovia liberia a long time ago...i hope ester is ok...i use to live in her house by suger beach...we went for long walks on the beach...i gave ester my military school medals...i cought maleria while i was there..a doctor of hers treated me....i lay in her bed..she by my side..and in a few weeks i was well....dear ester i hope all is welll...lots has happened in liberia...i hope and pray all is well...all is well for you...your friend out there still on the safari of life....the safari prince.

The Safari said...

there should be more films and movies about our brothers and sisters of the military and west point.....we allllll should make those films because it would give us some work and history on film......we need more film work...a film gives a lot of work...in africa our brothers and sisters are doing this work...dvd is easy to make...so lets get to work.....check out the safari prince....photo show...black west point....

vonnie said...

we talk about our military brothers and sisters to keep alive their stories.....what they have done and do.....this ie our talking book...we must talk our black history every day.... as we walk and talk...........it goes back to our african roots........to tell our history every day.... not just one month a year................dont... dont forget the 1000 back us army soldiers killed in mississippi by white police and white mp soldiers. back in 43 44 in mississippi....thats what they did to us.....our brothers were killed in cold blood,,,thats what white people did in mississippi....have we over come....we shall overcome...,,,,,but have we over come.................yes we have but never forget.............this is just late night talk by a brother still on the black history safari of life after 71 years..........50 years back and forward to africa...north east south and west....some day i hope you all will see our black history safari of africa and the world.........pictures and films...we need to make more films.............you only need a vidio camera....the rest is history day by day.... the dvd is so small you carry a million by hand............so lets make films.........we need the work.... lets do the work......our safari history work....thats it for now...its late or is it earky morning.............a new day....so lets get to work all over this world....just a few words from your brother ....de safari prince

Villager said...

Vonnie & The Safari - Are there other Black soldiers in history that you would like us to learn about? Any specific names come to mind for those of us interested in learning more about Black achievement in the military?

vonnie said...

why not anyone of the black eagles the tuskegee airmen......or the first black cadet to enter the citade acad.....he graduated and got his gold bar....but his life was tragick....although they did not send him to vietnam......he died young in a fire in texas....we feel so much for all o vets....... we honour them alllll.........god bless fro the safari prince

The Safari said...

for the next time around......obama should take hillery as his vice president......this is the best move he could make......and they would make history...............and as a humanitarian act he should send a jet to europe to bring alllllll those old vets from vietnam home........they are almost all dead now ...........the rest or most of the rest want to come home............just a note from a brother over 71 years old.....the safari prince