A national monument honoring the first African-American to achieve the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army is expected to draw thousands of visitors annually and help the economy of the area surrounding the southwest Ohio site.
The National Park Service celebrated the preservation of Col. Charles Young’s home in a dedication ceremony attended by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week. Young’s home in Wilberforce was designated last month by President Barack Obama as the 401st national park site. The home is being preserved as the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, which officials expect to draw an estimated 125,000 visitors a year, the Dayton Daily News reported
“These monuments are hugely significant and they’re economic engines for the local community,” Salazar said.
The service can “document that for every $1 we invest in a place like this, there is $4 in return to the economy,” National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said.
Federal officials say Young was the highest ranking black commanding officer from 1894 until his death in 1922 and served most of his military career with the all-black 9th and 10th Calvary regiments, often referred to as “Buffalo Soldiers.” American Indians gave that name to black soldiers on the western frontier in the 19th century.
Young, who was acting superintendent of Sequoia National Parks in California, was the first black superintendent of a national park and the third black person to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, federal officials said. He also commanded troops during the Spanish-American War.
Historian Brian Shellum called him “the torchbearer for African-Americans in the military.”