WILBERFORCE, OH - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, representatives from the National Park Foundation and the Trust for Public Land, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity members and local officials and community members to celebrate the establishment of the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument as the country's 401st national park. The site commemorates Colonel Charles Young, a distinguished African American army officer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to achieve the rank of colonel.
“In both his military and civilian activities, Colonel Charles Young overcame countless obstacles and demonstrated extraordinary character at a time when inequality and prejudice was a way of life,” said Salazar. “This addition to the National Park System not only tells the important story of this pioneering military leader and an important chapter in our nation's struggle for civil rights, but it is also expected to help strengthen the local economy and create jobs through tourism.”
The National Park Service's annual peer-reviewed report found that the 279 million visitors to our national parks generated $30.1 billion in economic activity and supported 252,000 jobs nationwide in 2011. More than one third of that total spending, or $13 billion, went directly into communities within 60 miles of a park, and the national parks return more than $10 for every $1 the American taxpayer invests in the National Park Service.
The monument, one of five created last week by President Obama under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906, will preserve Young's home. The Omega Psi Phi fraternity, of which Young was a part and which owned the home, made the property available for acquisition by the federal government for the purpose of establishing the national monument commemorating Young's life and accomplishments.
The African American Experience Fund (AAEF) of the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, provided 100 percent of the purchase price for the historic Omega Psi Phi home. The AAEF supports the work of the National Park Service by raising funds and establishing partnerships to connect all Americans to the role of African Americans in our country's history.
With the Trust for Public Land providing real estate support and assistance to facilitate the donation, the transaction was completed and the official donation was made to the federal government.
“Colonel Charles Young was one of the most important military leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with important ties to the National Park System as an early superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant national parks,” said Director Jarvis. “Thanks to the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, we are now able to recognize his home in Ohio as a national monument and ensure that his contributions to the American story will be preserved and shared to inspire future generations. We are grateful to our non-profit partner, the National Park Foundation and its African American Experience Fund, whose funding made it possible to protect and preserve this historically significant location as a part of the National Park System.”
After his graduation from West Point in 1889, Charles Young served in the United States Army for 28 years, primarily with the 9th and 10th United States Cavalry, comprised of African American troops nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers. He was the first African American to serve as a superintendent of a national park, commanding U.S. Army troops at Sequoia and General Grant national parks. He taught at Wilberforce University as its second professor of Science and Military Tactics. It was during this assignment that Young and his widowed mother Ada purchased the house that forms the core of the new national monument.
Young, who later became a distinguished combat officer, commanded troops in the Philippine Insurrection and the Mexican expedition against Pancho Villa. He was a pioneer of techniques in military intelligence, and one of the first military attachés in the United States, serving in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Liberia.
At the time of his death in 1922, Young was a nationally known figure whose obituary ran in the New York Times. His funeral was only the fourth in history to be held in the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.
United States Senators Sherrod Brown and Robert Portman both co-sponsored legislation in support of greater recognition of Col. Young.
“The contributions made by Colonel Young—and so many other African American soldiers who have fought for our nation—deserve to be honored on a national scale,” said Sen. Brown. “Colonel Young was a ground-breaking member of the military and a true example of the best of Ohio. Adding this home to the National Park System is an appropriate honor for this dedicated, selfless, and trailblazing American.”
“Today, as we celebrate the addition of Colonel Young's home to the National Park System, we remember his groundbreaking achievements and acts of valor in the face of prejudice and adversity,” said Sen. Portman. “His rich legacy has long been treasured by Ohioans, and now it will be preserved to inspire future generations across the country.”
U.S. Representative Michael Turner (OH-10) supported the National Parks Study Act to recognize the invaluable contributions of Young and find ways to commemorate his life and service.
“The president has rightly taken the step of officially designating the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument here in Southwest Ohio. Colonel Charles Young stands out as a shining example of the dedication, service, and commitment of the Buffalo Soldiers the United States and world history,” said Rep. Turner. “We should continue to honor the legacy and leadership of the Buffalo Soldiers and this monument will not only tell their story for generations to come, but will also inspire young Americans to achieve a sense of duty and honor.”
Reggie Tiller has been named acting superintendent of the new monument. Tiller is currently superintendent of William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati and has previously served as superintendent of George Washington Carver National Monument.
“It is a tremendous honor to bring a new site into the National Park System, especially one that honors a man who played such an important role in advancing the cause of civil rights within our nation's military,” said Tiller. “I look forward to working with the local community and many stakeholders creating partnerships that will honor the life and accomplishments of Colonel Young.”
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is located at 1120 U.S. Route 42 East, Xenia, Ohio. The site is not currently open to visitors, but programs and exhibits are under development.For more information, visit the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument website at www.nps.gov/chyo