May 20, 2000


Charles Young, as a black officer in the white man's U. S. Army, was not going to be given white soldiers to lead. In the Philippines he'd been assigned to the 9th Cavalry, an all black troop, many the same "buffalo soldiers" he'd worked with the in the far west. His next posting was as Military Attache to Haiti, a cover for his real assignment, secretly mapping the island and gathering military intelligence. He was quickly yanked out when a clerk stole his maps and took them to the Haitian government.

Back in the States he had some spare time to be with his family and pursue some of his many private interests. Besides composing for and playing the guitar, piano and violin, he spoke several foreign languages, and even worked from time to time on becoming a playwright. He corresponded with a number of black intellectuals such as NAACP founder W. E. B. DuBois, educator Booker T. Washington and poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. But it wasn't long before Pancho Villa was raising el Diablo down Mexico way and Young was off again, this time leading the all-black 10th Cavalry. As would be the case decades later in Vietnam, U. S. troops, hampered by political considerations, were under strict orders that limited their ability to defend themselves.

It was a U. S. racked with turmoil to which Young finally returned. While war was tearing Europe apart, race riots broke out in East St. Louis, Illinois, followed quickly by others in Houston, Texas. Black soldiers were as patriotic as whites and chaffed at the bit, wanting to go overseas and get in on the fighting. A movement was begun to promote Young to brigadier general, but army officers, 75% of them white southerners, as well as congressman from the South, pressured the War Department and doomed the promotion. Young also help lobby the Army to create an Officers Training Camp for black soldiers. It was obvious to his foes (I'm not referring to the Germans, either) that the black officer was getting too uppity, But Houston and East St. Louis were too fresh in everyone's minds for an outright attack on him. Subtler methods were needed. A scheduled physical for Young gave them an opening. The 54 year-old soldier was declared to have high blood pressure and retired. Faced with such a situation, Young did what he'd done so many times in the past. He saddled up. Getting ready to leave southwestern Ohio, he told his wife Ada that the blood pressure was nothing but patriotism in high gear, kissed the two children goodby and turned his horse's head toward Washington, D. C. It was a 500-mile ride and it took the cavalryman over two weeks of days often accompanied by racial curses from whites he passed, but despite hell and high blood pressure, he rode into the nation's capital 16 days later. Often a person's character is proved more by the battles they choose than by thir victories. This was to be the case for Young. He was reinstated but not reassigned until the war was winding down. The U. S. was not ready for brigades of black troops, lead by black officers. It would be decades yet.

OUTRO For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor


© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte