Charles Young: Short Story Biography

Charles Young portrait

Charles Young was born into enslavement in Mays Lick, Kentucky, in 1864. But while born enslaved, his life quickly changed. In early 1865, Charles’ father escaped to nearby Ripley, Ohio. This flourishing small town was home to many abolitionists and, for decades, had served as a stop on the Underground Railroad for people escaping enslavement. From Ripley, Charles’ father joined the 5th United States Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment, taking part in the Civil War. After his father’s discharge in 1866, the whole family settled in Ripley, where Charles grew up.

Throughout his upbringing, Charles’ parents placed much emphasis on education. He often studied at home with his mother, who though enslaved for her years before emancipation, was literate. With his mother’s help and guidance from educators who also served as mentors, Charles excelled in school, graduating atop his high school class in 1881 while becoming a talented musician and a polyglot. He became fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and German.

After high school, Charles became a teacher at a local school. A couple of years later, with encouragement from his father, Charles took the entrance exam for West Point. He scored second highest in his district, receiving admission after the top candidate chose not to enroll.

At West Point, Charles experienced much racism and often felt lonely. But he persevered through the challenges with help from some students and faculty along the way, graduating in 1887.

After graduating, Charles served in the military for the next twenty-eight years, taught at a university, and acted as superintendent of multiple national parks. He passed away in 1921.

“Charles Young: Short Story Biography” sources: Portrait by Pach Brothers, NY – Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center Wilberforce, Ohio / Colonel Charles Young – National Park Service / Wikipedia

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