By: Charles Blatcher, II
Chairman, National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations Email: email@example.com
In a speech delivered to the Kentucky Legislative Body in February, the coalition called for the designation of a corridor through Kentucky and Ohio to honor Brigadier General (BG) Charles Young. On June 1st, the National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations will join Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, members of the Kentucky Legislative Black Caucus and the community of Maysville to unveil a road sign proclaiming the Brigadier General Charles Young Memorial Historical Corridor.
We applaud the Legislative Black Caucus and the Kentucky Legislative Body for making the unveiling possible. The unveiling is significant to the history of BG Charles Young. On June 1, 1923, General Young’s body was re-buried in American soil at Arlington National Cemetery, and now the corridor unveiling ceremony will occur on the 100th Anniversary of his reburial.
Personally, I was drawn to Kentucky in 2010 by the late Historian Jerry Gore. I met him and former Judge/Executive James Gallenstein at a ceremony hosted at General Young’s graveside in Arlington National Cemetery. Brother Gore informed me of the existence of BG Charles Young’s birth cabin and invited me to visit. It did not take much to get me involved in the project. The coalition had been advocating for the Colonel’s promotion for decades. The commitment was nothing more than an extension of our advocacy. It has proven to be quite an extension; we have been involved with the effort for the past thirteen years, the story is too long to tell in an article, and one day it may make a great chapter in a book. However, addressing the Mason County Fiscal Court Commission to encourage them to purchase the property, and volunteering workdays with travel from around the country to help with the restoration, has been an adventure. I believe Desman O’Donald, the expert who restored the cabin and assistant Dwight Chrank appreciated our willingness to lend a hand. The Coalition collaborating with the community, members of the local clergy, and the local chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., all joined to display the finished work in 2015. Brother Gore passed away in 2016, blessed to have seen his dream of restoring the cabin come true. Now the corridor is our value-added addition to his dream.
Minority cultural institutions operate at crisis level during the best of times. Most are short staffed, underfunded with small budgets but persevere. There are ten historical sites relevant to Black History within the designated corridor. Eight are located between Camp Nelson National Monument in Nicholasville, Kentucky and the Charles Young and Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce, Ohio. On my trips to the State, I have had the opportunity to visit many of the locations. The tours are replete with Black History education, and we encourage others to plan and visit, this regional mecca of Black History.
The Kentucky part of the corridor runs eighty-five miles from Camp Nelson to the Kentucky/Ohio bridge in Maysville. We are asking the State of Ohio to pick up the designation at the bridge and extend it to the Charles Young and Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. The extension into Ohio will add another eighty-five miles to the distance from the Ohio bridge. The honor is appropriate, history is permeated throughout the region. Born into slavery Young’s family escaped to Ohio when he was an infant. His formative years were lived over the river in Ripley, Ohio where he resided before entering West Point. We salute Governor Andy Beshear for his leadership in giving Colonel Charles Young’s a state promotion, getting the promotion federalized, and for signing Senate Joint Resolution 58 into law on March 7, 2023, designating the corridor’s Kentucky segment.
Traveling Highway 68 heading toward the Ohio border in Maysville stands a White Church, the 2nd Baptist Church where the Young Family attended service in the mid 1850’s. The church stands next door to the Old Rosenwald Negro School, one of few remaining from the initial five thousand built in the South when the education system was segregated, and the birth cabin of General Young rounds out the Kentucky corridor segment. Crossing the river into Ripley, BG Young was raised under the tutelage of his father and the likes of John Rankin and John Parker, abolitionist, and conductors of the underground railroad. The homes of both men are now museums that tell fascinating stories of the era. Arriving at Wilberforce there is the Charles Young and Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, the National Afro American Museum, Wilberforce University, and the Payne Theology Seminary all welcoming your visit.
There is still work to be done reference getting the cabin annexed into the National Park Service. We have called on President Biden to use the Antiquities Act to bring the property into the National Parks. We have a petition on Change.Org. Please visit the page and sign the petition: Petition asks President Biden to establish BG Charles Young’s birth cabin a National Monument Change.Org. We also would like your support on our petition call for a statue of General Charles Young on the grounds of the National African American Museum in Washington, DC. Petition Black Veterans call for a statue of BG Charles Young on the National African American Museum of History and Culture grounds in DC Change.Org.
To assist with marketing, we created a commemorative publication to honor the corridor unveiling occasion. The publication is a narrative introducing Black History to be found in the region, along the corridor. The publication titled; Black History Tour Guide on the Brigadier General Charles Young Memorial Corridor is a piece of history. It is the first marketing document created recognizing the corridor. Only a few souvenir copies of the publication will be produced by print. We plan to make the document available through Facebook and social media. If you would like to receive an electronic copy please reach out to us by email. In the publication we acknowledge the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville despite them not being in the corridor. The center holds a prominent place in recognizing Black Kentuckian History. The Center is the home of the Brigadier General Charles Young Veterans Flag Memorial and the Coalition’s exhibit and maquette. Any visit to Louisville should include a visit to the Center and Flag Memorial.
The corridor unveiling ceremony is scheduled for June 1, 2023, at the Bridge in Maysville followed by a program at the General’s birth cabin located at 6319 Helena Road, May’s Lick, KY, beginning at 2:30 pm. The public is invited to the cabin program. Save the date, we are calling on Veterans and the public to join us. See you on the Corridor!