Commission on Human Rights
Kentucky Human Rights Commission passes resolution to urge Congress to recognize African American Kentuckian, the late Colonel Charles Young
(JULY 11, 2011, LOUISVILLE, KY) - The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights Board of Commissioners has passed a resolution asking the United States Congress to posthumously promote an African American Kentuckian to Brigadier General. Colonel Charles D. Young was the highest ranking black U.S. military officer at the time of his death in 1922.
Young was born in Mays Lick, Ky., in 1864. He rose above the prejudices of the period including the existence of slavery to excel as a student, a high ranking officer of the U.S. Army, and a U.S. Military Attaché to the country of Liberia, breaking racial barriers along the way.
“The Commission believes that Colonel Young’s achievements during an era when the odds against him were more than great merit the posthumous rank of Brigadier General,” said John J. Johnson, commission executive director. “The commission and the organizations that have asked for our support also believe that with such a list of achievements, Colonel Young may have been recognized with this rank during his life, had he lived during a more enlightened time,” he said.
Charles Young was only the third black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1889. He served as a United States Buffalo Soldier and was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the Ninth U.S. Calvary from 1889-1894. He served as a professor of Military Science at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1896. He fought in the Spanish American War in 1898 and was promoted to the office of Major. He was promoted to Captain in 1901 and led the Ninth Calvary in combat in the Philippines from 1901 to 1902. He served as Acting Superintendent of Sequoia National Park in 1903, becoming the first African American to hold the title. From 1912 to 1915, he served as U.S. Military Attaché to the country of Liberia, where he helped build roads and develop the Liberian Frontier forces. He was wounded during a rescue mission and later received the Spingarn Award from the NAACP. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1917 after serving in Mexico with General Pershing, thus becoming the highest-ranking African American in the United States. He later returned to active duty as Military Attaché in Liberia in 1919. He served in this capacity until his death.
Kentucky Human Rights Commissioner Samuel R. Coleman Jr., of Middlesboro, Ky., read the resolution to the commission for passage at its Louisville meeting. “Colonel Young lived an exemplary life as a patriot and a role model for people who sought better lives by defeating bigotry through hard work, faith, talent and perseverance,” Coleman said.
The National Veterans Coalition is leading the promotion effort with the help of several members of the United States Congress and is raising funds to build a statue of the late soldier, which is proposed to be erected in Washington, D.C.
The coalition seeks to have Young’s birthplace, a cabin in Mays Lick, and his home at the time of his death in Xenia, Ohio, registered as state and national landmarks. The group hopes Congress will designate National Trail Status to the route that Colonel Young and the U.S. Buffalo Soldiers traveled when they worked in Sequoia National Park in Visalia, Calif.
“The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is proud to support these efforts by
members of Congress, the National Veterans Coalition, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and the NAACP,” said Executive Director Johnson.
The commission already publishes a biographical poster of Colonel Young as part of its Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians educational poster series. The posters are used by schools and libraries to help teach Kentucky African American history.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is the state government agency that enforces the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and the U.S. Civil Rights Act. These laws protect people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, familial status, age, and tobacco-smoking status. The classes are protected with varying stipulations in the areas of housing, employment, public accommodations and financial transactions.
People may contact the commission for help with discrimination by calling 1.800.292.5566. To learn more about civil rights, visit the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights website at www.kchr.ky.gov. From the homepage, find the links to the commission Face Book and Twitter pages to follow civil and human rights-related news stories.