W.E.B. Du Bois


March 1, 1915

It is peculiarly fitting that Major Charles Young should be the second Negro American to receive the Spingarn medal. Major Young was born in Kentucky and educated in Ohio, as we have already noted in the pages of The Crisis. He is forty-eight years of age, strongly built, and physically fit. He has just been assigned command of the 2nd Squadron of the 10th Cavalry stationed in Arizona. Every effort was made by the State Department to retain him in Liberia, where his work was invaluable, but the Department of War refused to make an exception in his case under the “Man- chu” Law; and this was well. We hope yet to see Major Young at the head of the constabulary in Haiti.

But it is not because of this man’s military career that he was chosen as the recipient of the Spingarn medal; nor was it solely because of his brilliant civic service in Haiti, in Liberia and in California; but rather because of a certain unusually fine quality of spirit.

Few people know what Major Young suffered at West Point. There was no refinement of cruelty and insult that was not heaped on this black boy by his white fellows in the first three years of his career to drive him out of the institution. The same kind of social difficulties and temptations faced him during his early career in the army. He has faced insult as he has faced his daily bread, and with the same imperturbable balance and determination.

He has not only faced death in war, but—what is much more difficult—he has faced it in peace. When he last returned to Africa after an unusually severe attack of Black Water Fever not one of his friends expected to see him alive again. It was a piece of bravery almost foolhardy; but he went and won and comes back strong and ready for further sacrifices.

The Liberian Government has expressed its “grateful appreciation of the most valuable services by Major Young,” services “which will always stand as a monument to the Major’s name in the military annals of the Republic.”

The Adjutant-General of the United States says of the Liberian frontier: “It has been only with the most careful advisory supervision of Major Young that peace and order has been maintained.”

Leonard Wood, Major-General of the United States Army, says that Major Young’s “service in the army has been highly creditable to his race from every standpoint.”

This is the man whom this Association is honoring itself by honoring.


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1915. “Young.” The Crisis 11 (5): 240, 242.