Charles Young (United States Army officer)

Charles Young (March 12, 1864 – January 8, 1922) was an American soldier. He was the third African-American graduate of the United States Military Academy, the first Black U.S. national park superintendent, first Black military attaché, first Black man to achieve the rank of colonel in the United States Army, and highest-ranking black officer in the Regular Army until his death in 1922. In 2022, in recognition of his exemplary service and the barriers he faced due to racism, he was posthumously promoted to brigadier general, and a promotion ceremony was held in his honor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Charles Young was born in 1864 into slavery to Gabriel Young and Arminta Bruen in Mays Lick, Kentucky, a small village near Maysville. However, his father escaped from slavery early in 1865, crossing the Ohio River to Ripley, Ohio, and enlisting in the 5th United States Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment near the end of the American Civil War. His service earned Gabriel and his wife their freedom, which was guaranteed by the 13th Amendment. His mother was literate, which suggests she may have worked as a house slave. The Young family settled in Ripley when Gabriel was discharged in 1866. Gabriel Young received a bonus by continuing to serve in the Army after the war, and he had enough money to buy land and build a house. In the late nineteenth century Ripley, Ohio was a thriving river town of about 2,500 residents. Before the war, Ripley was a major station on the Underground Railroad, led by men like Rev. John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, and John P. Parker, a foundry owner and businessman who had been born into slavery, but was able to buy his freedom. Parker was literate and self-educated and he believed the way to equality for Blacks was through education. John Parker was the one who had assisted Gabriel Young in enlisting in the Union Army in 1865. The Youngs lived on Cherry Street in Ripley. Charles attended the colored school and was also home schooled by his mother.
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