By: Charles Blatcher, III Chairman, National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations
The World Conference of Mayors voted the National Coalition into its organization’s membership. The Conference voted to support the Coalition’s nomination of Brigadier General Charles Young having a United States Army Base named in his honor.
I begin with saying it is a done deal – Charles Young is a Brigadier General in the United States Army. It has taken forty years to reach the day it happened. We worked on the promotion longer than Charles Young served in the Military. I credit the late Sergeant Samuel Waller with planting the seed for the advocacy. He introduced me to the history of Colonel Charles Young.
I met Sergeant Waller in 1977, he was the last surviving Black Veteran from the Spanish American War in the State of California. We met at the Veterans Home in Yountville, California. He was ninety-nine years old, blind, and living alone in Los Angeles. Out concern for his safety, the State of California declared him a ward of the State and arranged for his transfer to Yountville. Because of my interest in Black Military History, I was welcome as a member of the team assembled to greet his arrival. We became the best of friends.
Sergeant Waller served as a member of the 24th Infantry Regiment. The Infantry was garrison in the Philippine Islands with a Company of the 9th Cavalry Regiment, there under the command of Captain Young in 1901. Sergeant Waller told me that Charles Young was the best officer in the United States Army. According to him, the Black Troops loved Young and would follow him through Hell and back. Sergeant Waller like others in and out of the military felt had it not been for his Color, Young would have been a General. Back in those days, career soldiers knew each other, Captain Young and Sergeant Waller were friends.
The more I learned about Colonel Charles Young, the more I understood and agreed with Sam’s assessment of his friend. According to Sam, “They write you out the future by writing you out of the past.” I promised Sergeant Waller, I would do the best I could not to let that happen. The best that I could do part has been my driving motivation for forty-one years. While keeping the record straight and giving credit where due, there are still more credits to be given. There are twenty plus organizations in the Coalition who have supported the effort over the years.
Individuals like Sergeant Waller have passed on. But this is an accomplishment for us all. This would not have happened without support from people past and present. To Sergeant Samuel Waller, promise kept!
We have added to the archives of Brigadier General Young. Under the leadership of the Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations, proclamations collected from various sources are now part of his archives in the National Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio. In 2010, collaborating with the community of Mason County Kentucky, the coalition partnered in the restoration of Charles Young’s birth cabin. The project is a part of an economic development undertaking promoting history and educational tourism to the region. We have joined Governor Andy Beshear in calling for the annexation of the cabin and its thirty-eight acres into the National Park Service. We encourage the public to visit the location along with the other historical sights in the region.
In 2018, the Coalition accepted an honorary doctorate degree for then Colonel Charles Young from Wilberforce University. He served as a professor there from 1894 to 1898. The following year the group petitioned for Charles Young’s induction into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019. The following year 2020, the Governor of Kentucky, honored our request and promoted Charles Young to the honorary rank of Brigadier General in the State National Guard. The April 29th, 2022, ceremony at the Military Academy at West Point federalized the promotion of Charles Young to the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army. The Coalition has submitted Brigadier General Charles Young as a nominee to have a United States Army Base named in his honor. The decision is due in October 2022.
We credit Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky with securing the promotion. However, the project has an Oakland, California origin. I would like to give special acknowledgment to the late Congressman Ronald V. Dellums. In 1982 his Office authored the First House Resolution calling for the Colonel’s honorary promotion. The House Resolution #6772 was submitted on our behalf. Upon Congressman Dellums retirement, Congresswoman Barbara Lee picked-up the charge on the behalf of the Coalition. This has been a marathon not a sprint.
In 2014, the National Coalition premiered the bronze maquette of Colonel Young on horseback at the African American Museum in Oakland. The maquette is a replica of the statue we plan to erect in Washington, DC. Maquettes are currently on display at both the Kentucky African American Heritage Center in Louisville, Kentucky and the National Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Houston, Texas. The Coalition has called on the National African American Museum of Culture and Heritage in Washington, DC to allow the statue to be located on the grounds.
I close saying that I am a pragmatist. I have always believed this would happen because it has been the right thing to do. Foremost, it gave a man the honor in death that he earned in his lifetime. It is a positive step for the Nation. While it is true that you cannot change history, we can place asterisks next to the most egregious acts to show redress has occurred. In other words, we have grown in national tolerance. However, it is larger than one Man. Brigadier General Charles Young is an Icon. He stood larger than life among his contemporaries. He was a musician, poet, educator, diplomat, and Soldiers Soldier. He stands larger in life today. He represents the honor and dedication of Black participation in the defense of the Nation. His statue will be the only statue of a Black Army Officer on horseback in the District of Columbia. There is no more fitting location for the statue than on the property of the National African American Museum of History and Culture dedicated to Civil Rights. We will update the public on the status of the outstanding request when we receive a response. Thank you.
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