Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young

Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young

Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young

Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young

Synopsis

An unheralded military hero, Charles Young (1864-1922) was the third black graduate of West Point, the first African American national park superintendent, the first black U. S. military attaché, the first African American officer to command a Regular Army regiment, and the highest-ranking black officer in the Regular Army until his death. Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment tells the story of the man who-willingly or not-served as a standard-bearer for his race in the officer corps for nearly thirty years, and who, if not for racial prejudice, would have become the first African American general. Brian G. Shellum describes how, during his remarkable army career, Young was shuffled among the few assignments deemed suitable for a black officer in a white man's army-the Buffalo Soldier regiments, an African American college, and diplomatic posts in black republics such as Liberia. Nonetheless, he used his experience to establish himself as an exceptional cavalry officer. He was a colonel on the eve of the United States' entry into World War I, when serious medical problems and racial intolerance denied him command and ended his career. Shellum's book seeks to restore a hero to the ranks of military history; at the same time, it informs our understanding of the role of race in the history of the American military.

Excerpt

Charles Young is an unheralded military hero, whose rich life story, from 1864 to 1922, is virtually unknown to most Americans, African Americans included. Consider his extraordinary honors: third black graduate of West Point, first African American superintendent of one of our national parks, first black U.S. military attaché, first African American officer to command a Regular Army regiment, and highest-ranking black officer in the Regular Army until his death in 1922. Unlike the first two black academy graduates before him, Young went on to a long and distinguished military career and achieved the rank of colonel. For nearly thirty years he was the standard-bearer for his race in the officer corps. Only serious medical problems discovered on the eve of the U.S. entry into World War I—and racial prejudice—prevented him from becoming the first African American general.

Why have we overlooked this trail-blazing American? In my research about Charles Young, I discovered two reasons. The first is a lack of primary resources about the man. The second reason, which also explains the scarcity of research about the soldier and diplomat, is that Charles Young was black, isolated in a world where prejudice reigned and white people had power. It is my hope that further in-depth research about Charles Young will give him the prominent place in history he deserves.

In my first book, entitled Black Cadet in a White Bastion: Charles . . .

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