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Civil rights leader and diplomat Col. Charles Young commemorated in Wilberforce

Sam Bain, right, a district representative from Sen. Rob Portman's office, sits next to the keynote speaker at the Col. Charles Young commemoration, Lieutenant General Xavier T. Brunson (left). Lawrence Young, President of the Colonel Charles Young foundation and descendant of Col. Young, speaks at the podium in the upper left corner.
Chris Welter
/
WYSO
Sam Bain, right, a district representative from Sen. Rob Portman's office, sits next to the keynote speaker at the Col. Charles Young commemoration, Lieutenant General Xavier T. Brunson (left). Lawrence Young, President of the Colonel Charles Young foundation and descendant of Col. Young, speaks at the podium in the upper left corner.

Col. Charles Young was commemorated in the Paul Robeson auditorium at Central State this month. Young was a diplomat and civil rights leader who spent some of his life teaching at Wilberforce University. His family home in Wilberforce was named a National Monument by President Obama in 2013.

Young faced intense discrimination throughout his career in the army. Still, he became just the third Black graduate of West Point and the first black Colonel in the US army.

He fought in the Great Plains as a member of the Buffalo Soldiers black calvary. He also travelled around the world as military attaché, where he learned eight languages.

A poster-board at the Col. Young commemoration
Chris Welter
/
WYSO
A poster-board at the Col. Young commemoration

Young was a poet and writer too—he was a friend and contemporary of Dayton’s Paul Laurence Dunbar and renowned sociologist W.E.B. DuBois.

The army denied Young's request to lead troops during World War I. They said he was physically unqualified. So, at 53 years old, he rode a horse from Wilberforce to Washington, D.C. to prove his fitness and plead his case. He was still denied. Young died on January 8, 1922 on a mission in Lagos, Nigeria.

Lieutenant General Xavier Brunson was the Keynote speaker at the event. He said that he, and other black military leaders in the United States, walk in the footsteps of men like Young.

“Colonel Charles Young’s story is not a black story. It's not an African-American story. It's an American story, and it belongs to all of us.”

The Charles Young National Monument is being renovated until 2023. Temporary services are available at the Bishop Reverdy C. Ransom Memorial Library on the Payne Theological Seminary campus in Wilberforce.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is an Environmental Reporter at WYSO through Report for America. In 2017, he completed the radio training program at WYSO's Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. Prior to joining the team at WYSO, he did boots-on-the-ground conservation work and policy research on land-use issues in southwest Ohio as a Miller Fellow with the Tecumseh Land Trust.