Army Posthumously Promotes First Black Colonel to One-Star General


The Military has awarded a posthumous honorary promotion to the service’s first Black colonel, elevating him to brigadier basic greater than 100 years after his dying, Military Instances has discovered.

Col. Charles Younger’s profession, which stretched from his West Level commencement in 1889 to his compelled medical retirement in 1917 that stored him from preventing in World Struggle I, “broke new floor again and again,” stated Military Secretary Christine Wormuth in a press release to Military Instances confirming the promotion.

An skilled cavalry officer who was wounded in Liberia in 1912, Younger was discovered medically unfit for brigade command — and promotion to brigadier basic — in 1917. That’s regardless of having the advice of Gen. John J. Pershing after Younger demonstrated his prowess as a part of the 1916 U.S. incursion into Mexico.

Wormuth acknowledged that “discriminatory practices not solely held him again however compelled him into retirement.”

Wormuth expressed her delight that “the Military redressed that unsuitable [recently] with an extended overdue posthumous, honorary promotion.” She is going to preside over a promotion ceremony “at West Level this spring — the place his Military profession first began because the Academy’s third Black Graduate.”

Charles Younger: The Military’s first black colonel

The promotion was efficient Nov. 1, 2021, Wormuth stated, and Younger’s descendants discovered of it in January.

It comes after many years of lobbying from Younger’s descendants and Black organizations just like the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, which inducted him as an honorary member in 1912.

Charles Younger pictured right here in navy uniform in 1919. (Renotta Younger/Courtesy picture)

“We’re euphoric…It truly occurred. It’s virtually like a miracle,” stated Renotta Younger, a member of the officer’s household, in a telephone interview with Military Instances. “This was a unsuitable that has lastly been corrected.”

Younger’s trailblazing profession and legacy

Charles Younger’s navy profession started when he earned an appointment to West Level. In 1889, he turned the third Black man to graduate and grow to be an Military officer.

He served as considered one of America’s “buffalo troopers” within the mostly-black ninth Cavalry in Nebraska and Utah throughout his early profession.

Younger’s subsequent project was as a professor of navy science at Wilberforce College close to Dayton, Ohio — one of many nation’s oldest historically-Black establishments. There, he turned acquainted with intellectuals like W.E.B. Du Bois.

Younger’s household house in Ohio turned a Nationwide Historic Landmark in 1974. It was added to the Nationwide Park Service because the Charles Younger Buffalo Troopers Nationwide Monument in 2013.

Younger commanded a battalion of Ohio volunteers that remained within the U.S. through the 1898 Spanish-American Struggle, however he deployed to the Philippines in 1901 because the commander of I Troop, ninth Cavalry, the place he noticed fight towards native insurgents.

After returning to the U.S., Younger would make historical past because the first Black superintendent of a nationwide park when he took a short-term project because the chief of Sequoia and Normal Grant Nationwide Parks in northern California.

Within the decade earlier than World Struggle I, Younger accomplished two squadron instructions and served as a protection attaché, first to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and later to the western Africa nation of Liberia in 1912. He was shot within the arm and wounded there in a firefight between Liberian troops and a rebellious tribe.

Younger, by then a significant, accomplished his tour in Liberia in 1915 and returned to the U.S. as a luminary within the Black neighborhood. He obtained the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1916 for his work to assist arrange and prepare the Liberian police power. The medal is at the moment on show on the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition in Washington.

His profile rose much more after his profitable stint commanding 2nd Squadron, tenth Cavalry, through the Military’s Punitive Expedition that invaded Mexico in response to lethal raids by guerilla chief Pancho Villa.

Younger’s troops defeated a contingent of Villa’s forces on March 31, 1916, and likewise fought off Mexican authorities troopers the next month to save lots of one other U.S. cavalry detachment that was surrounded.

After his successes in Mexico, Younger was promoted to lieutenant colonel and was on Pershing’s short-list of leaders who deserved brigade command primarily based on their efficiency within the expedition. He was promoted to colonel — turning into the primary Black officer to achieve that rank — and underwent a medical examination to guage him for command.

The docs discovered that his kidneys had been probably broken, however two medical boards really helpful that the problems be waived with the intention to enable the skilled chief to struggle in America’s largest battle for the reason that Civil Struggle.

Struggle Secretary Newton Baker advised a medical retirement as an alternative, and the historic file suggests {that a} Mississippi senator had complained to President Woodrow Wilson about white officers being compelled to serve underneath the command of a Black man. Younger’s medical situation represented a handy technique to clear up that drawback, argued historian David Colley.

Black organizations just like the NAACP protested the choice, and in an effort to show his health, Younger rode almost 500 miles on horseback from Wilberforce all the way in which to Washington in 1918.

He was put again on lively obligation in November of that yr, however finally didn’t obtain an abroad command or promotion. He as an alternative led a coaching unit after which later returned to Liberia in his former function as attaché.

Younger fell ailing whereas on obligation in Nigeria in late 1921, and he died in Lagos on Jan. 8, 1922. His physique was returned to the U.S. round a yr later, and he was buried in Arlington Nationwide Cemetery.

Renotta Younger, considered one of his descendants, described him as a “Renaissance man” who “persevered and cherished his nation.” She helps run a basis that honors his life and preserves his legacy whereas supporting youth improvement and different academic packages.

Renotta Younger, whose grandfather was the officer’s first cousin and confidante in Wilberforce, desires to see the Military proceed to make progress on bettering the expertise of Black troops as nicely. She stated in her telephone interview with Military Instances that “most of the issues that he went via nonetheless exist,” comparable to base names that honor Accomplice troops and a navy justice system that disproportionately punishes Black troops.

She hopes “that this [overdue honor] will spur” Military officers to “acknowledge that it’s for the nice of society to determine people who can and can make a distinction with none aura of discrimination.”


This story accommodates data that initially appeared in an article by David Colley within the March 2013 concern of Army Historical past journal. Initially revealed on Army Instances, our sister publication.

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