The Kentucky State Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet joins the Coalition of Black Veterans in promoting “The Brigadier General Charles Young Memorial Historical Corridor”

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By: Charles Blatcher, III
Chairman, National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations
Email: cnmmmf@aol.com
June 1st, 2023                      

        The years of work that the National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations has expanded into uplifting the name of Charles Young has been pursued as an act of “Honor.” The early pursuit of his promotion to Brigadier General was inspired by Retired Sergeant Samuel Waller, SAWV, a friend of Charles Young and a friend of mine. Sergeant Waller  charged me with the task of seeking the promotion for Colonel Charles Young in 1978. Governor Andy Beshear brought that four decade plus advocacy to a point of success with a State promotion in 2020. The Governor assisted our efforts to have his State promotion federalized by President Joseph Biden in 2022.   

      I have heard several accounts of how the promotions came about.  The false accounts found their way to the Pentagon Department of Army and Cyber-World. Neither Governor Beshear nor the Coalition were mentioned in either of the fabricated stories.  We are hopeful the Governor’s letter printed in the Regional Black Tour Guide publication will put the untruths to rest. To view the publication, click here KentLeg_ProgramBook_FINAL (designrr.page)

      In 2010, the Coalition was invited to Kentucky, by the late Historian Brother Jerry Gore, and then Judge/Executive James Gallenstein, to view the birth cabin that was standing on what appeared to be its last leg. They sought our assistance in restoring the structure based on its historical significance. The cabin was restored and premiered in 2014.  Brother Gore passed away in 2016 after seeing his dream come to pass.  His love and respect for the history can best be described in his own quotation: “ I don’t come to bring blame or shame, I come to teach my people’s history.” Now, the restored cabin is good to stand for another century to say the least.  

     The work in Kentucky has continued since his passing. The Coalition obtained an honorary Doctorate Degree for Charles Young from Wilberforce University and had him inducted into the State of Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Today’s corridor designation is a punctuation mark behind the work that has gone into this phase of acknowledging Brigadier General Charles Young. 

     The Corridor highlights the wealth of Black History that bridges the States of Kentucky and Ohio, the history Brother Gore preached. The first attempt to establish the corridor proffered the Colonel Charles Young Memorial Highway (the renaming of the highway that runs in front of the Cabin property). The idea of establishing a Corridor presented challenges. We credit former State Representative Mike Denham for the Memorial Highway as well as finding a way for us to carry the Corridor idea forward by gaining the consensus of Kentucky’s Local and State Government . We acknowledge the Kentucky Legislative Black Caucus and Senator Gerald Neal for providing the forum during Black History Month for us to introduce the idea to the State Legislature and the public. We thank him and State Senator Stephen West for carrying the designation forward to become a Law. We acknowledge Judge/Executive Owen McNeill for supporting the effort and Governor Beshear for signing SJR 58 into law on March 7, 2023. 

     The unveiling date of June 1st is significant in the legacy of Brigadier General Charles Young. It marks the 100th Anniversary of his interment at Arlington National Cemetery, a year, and a half after his death.  Colonel Charles Young died on January 8, 1922, in Lagos, Nigeria where he was buried. His wife Ada, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People lobbied the US Government demanding his body be returned to America.  Based on the laws of Nigeria, once a body is buried, it cannot be exhumed for a period of at least one year. The Corridor will be unveiled to mark the 100th Anniversary of his reburial in American soil.   

     The honor of naming the corridor after Brigadier General Charles Young is consistent with the educational principles of the man.  He was an Educator, Soldier and Diplomat who served this nation honorably during a military career that spanned three decades plus. The Corridor is about promoting education, and the preservation of Black History found within the region. The corridor includes:

  •  Camp Nelson National Monument, Nicholasville, KY: Union Civil War Era Depot.
  • Brigadier General Young’s birth cabin, Mays Lick, KY: built 1790’s; 2014 restored and reopened.
  • The Rosenwald – Negro School, Mays Lick, KY: one of more than 5,000 schools and shops built in early 20th century for the education of Southern Negro children.
  • Second Baptist Church, Mays Lick, KY: attended by the Young Family in the 1860’s.
  • John Parker House, Ripley, OH (Underground Railroad): John Parker bought his freedom, was an abolitionist, an inventor, and entrepreneur.
  • John Rankin House, Ripley, Ohio: Presbyterian minister John Rankin’s home; he is reputed to be one of Ohio’s first and most active Underground Railroad Conductors.
  • Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Wilberforce, OH: commemorates Charles Young’s life (1864-1922), US Army Buffalo Soldier; first African American Colonel.
  • The National Afro American Museum and Culture Center, Wilberforce, Ohio boasts the largest repository of General Young related materials.
  • Wilberforce University, the nation’s oldest private Black University was named to honor 18th century abolitionist, William Wilberforce, and
  •  Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, Ohio: established in 1849, oldest free-standing African American United States seminary; incorporated in 1894 by the AME Church.

      The Kentucky side of the Corridor runs approximately ninety-five miles and represents the largest region in the nation named to honor a Black Veteran. The distinction is great; however, this is not a glamour or vanity project, there is a practical benefit to the designation.  Neither was the pursuit of the Colonel’s promotion. The promotion addressed and made corrections of an obvious historical injustice. “The promotion title given in death – was earned in his lifetime.” The promotion elevated General Young closer to his proper place of recognition in American History. What remains of the gap to be filled – is a statue of him on the grounds of the National African American Museum, an institution established in the name of Civil Rights. The statue will memorialize Colonel Charles Young’s 497 mile walk and horseback ride from Wilberforce, Ohio to Washington, DC, in protest of his medical retirement from active-duty service in 1917.  Charles Young was a torchbearer for Civil Rights during the era for Black Soldiers.  He was the highest-ranking Black Officer in the United States Armed Forces. 

      The Coalition has always viewed the cabin restoration as an economic development project. It’s an example of how history can be used as a revenue generator. The Corridor offers economic potential to the region, and the cabin is a very important piece of the story. We are planning a campaign to promote  the Corridor through a series of media blasts over a period of twelve months to a national audience. Our goal is to make people aware of the educational resources in the region.  We are video recording the June 1st ceremony to create an social media infomercial . We are appreciative of the Kentucky State Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet for teaming with us in this promotional effort. 

      We recently called on President Biden a second time to appropriate the cabin under the Antiquities Act into the National Park Service. In recent correspondence we sent four hundred plus signatures of people supporting our request. We have been notified by the Department of Interior that they plan to conduct a Reconnaissance Survey of the site in 2024. While that is down the road, in the meantime we will continue, and invite you to continue promoting the Region. Let me not fail to mention the Kentucky African American Heritage Center in Louisville. Please stop by and view the outstanding presentation of the General, and observe the Coalition’s maquette of him on horseback, a replica of the statue we are working to erect in Washington, DC.    

     In closing, on  behalf of the National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations, we celebrate this occasion by extending an invitation to the public to come spend a day, a weekend or a week exploring the sites in the Brigadier General Charles Young Memorial Historical Corridor.  

#####                                          See you on the Corridor!                               #####