In 1884, Second Lieutenant Charles Young became just the third African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After deployments in the west with the Ninth U.S. Cavalry the War Department assigned Young to serve as a professor of Military Science and Tactics at Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1894. The army’s first choice Lieutenant John Alexander, the second African American to graduate from West Point and a more veteran officer, had died suddenly after less than a month on the job.
Because the American military in the 19th century was rigidly segregated and there were few command opportunities for black officers like Young, the chance to command and instruct a cadet corps at Wilberforce was a choice assignment. Young relished the position and volunteered to serve as an instructor of French, Chemistry, Descriptive Geometry, and Geology, as well as Military Science and Tactics. He appears to have been well-regarded by his students and peers.
After the death of his father Gabriel in June 1894, Young’s mother Arminta moved to the Wilberforce area to live with her son. The two purchased a large, two-story brick house on the Columbia Pike one mile from the Wilberforce campus and just outside the city limits of Xenia, Ohio. Charles Young named the house “Youngsholm” and it quickly became a much-loved gathering place for students, friends, and members of the burgeoning black intelligentsia including a young Wilberforce professor named W.E.B. Du Bois and an aspiring poet and friend of the Wright Brothers, Paul Lawrence Dunbar.
Young would rise through the ranks from Second Lieutenant to Colonel and serve his country in such varied capacities as an acting superintendent at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (1903), an officer in the punitive expeditions against Pancho Villa in Mexico (1916), and as a military attaché to Monrovia, Liberia (1920). Despite his travels Young always regarded the house in Xenia as his home. Colonel Charles Young died in Lagos, Nigeria, on January 8, 1922, at the age of 58. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.