Charles Young (United States Army) : biography
Charles Young (March 12, 1864 - January 8, 1922) was the third African American graduate of West Point, the first black U.S. national park superintendent, first black military attaché, first black to achieve the rank of colonel, and highest-ranking black officer in the United States Army until his death in 1922.
Early life and education
Charles Young was born in 1864 into slavery to Gabriel Young and Arminta Bruen in May's Lick, Kentucky, a small village near Maysville, but he grew up a free person., Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska, 2006, pp. 6-13, accessed 8 Jun 2010 His father Gabriel escaped from slavery in 1865, going across the Ohio River to Ripley, Ohio to enlist as a private in the Fifth Regiment of the Colored Artillery (Heavy) Volunteers during the American Civil War. Accounts differ as to whether he took his wife and child with him then. His service earned him and his wife freedom. As a young woman Arminta had learned to read and write, and may have had status as a house slave before becoming free.
After the war, the entire family migrated to Ripley in 1866, where the parents decided opportunities were better than in postwar Kentucky. Gabriel had earned a bonus by continuing to serve in the Army after the war and had a stake to buy land. As a youth, Charles Young attended the all-white high school in Ripley, the only one available. He graduated at age 16 at the top of his class. Following graduation, he taught school for a few years at the newly established black high school of Ripley.
While teaching, Young took a competitive examination for appointment as a cadet at United States Military Academy at West Point. He achieved the second highest score in the district in 1883, and after the primary candidate dropped out, Young reported to the academy in 1884. He was not the only black student in the academy, (John Hanks Alexander entered West Point Military Academy in 1883 and graduated in 1887, Alexander and Young shared a room for three years at West Point). Young made some lifelong friends among his classmates. He had to repeat his first year because of failing mathematics. Failing an engineering class later, he passed after being personally tutored during the summer by George Washington Goethals, a brilliant engineer and assistant professor who took an interest in him. (Goethals later directed construction of the Panama Canal.) It was not unusual for candidates to require additional help in some subjects. Young's strength was in languages, and he learned several.
Young graduated with his commission as a second lieutenant in 1889, the third black man to do so at the time. He was first assigned to the Tenth U.S. Cavalry Regiment. Through a reassignment, he served first with the Ninth U.S. Cavalry Regiment, serving first in Nebraska. His subsequent service of 28 years was chiefly with black troops—the Ninth U.S. Cavalry and the Tenth U.S. Cavalry, black troops nicknamed the "Buffalo Soldiers" since the Indian Wars. The armed services were racially segregated until 1948, when President Harry S. Truman integrated them by Executive order.
Honors and legacy
- 1903 - The Visalia, California Board of Trade presented Young with a citation in appreciation of his performance as Acting Superintendent of Sequoia National Park.
- 1916 - The NAACP awarded him the Spingarn Medal for his achievements in Liberia and the US Army.
- He was elected an honorary member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
- 1922 - Young's obituary appeared in the New York Times, demonstrating his national reputation
- 1922 - His funeral was one of few held at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, where he was buried in Section 3.
- Charles E. Young Elementary School, named in his honor, was built in Washington, D.C. The school is the first elementary school in Northeast D.C., and was built explicitly to improve education in the city's black neighborhoods.
- 1974 - The house where he had lived when teaching at Wilberforce University was designated a National Historic Landmark, in recognition of his historic importance.
- 2001 - Senator Mike DeWine introduced Senate Resolution 97, to recognize the contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, and Colonel Charles D. Young., Buffalosoldier.net, accessed 9 Jun 2010
- 2013 - President Barack Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate Young's house as the 401st unit of the National Park System, the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument., accessed 7 April 2013
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