Paving the way for generations of black men

Sequoia National Park will rename stretch of Highway 198 Colonel Charles Young Memorial Highway during Veterans Day dedication


SEQUOIA AND KING CANYON NATIONAL PARKS – Col. Charles Young only spent one summer as acting superintendent of Sequoia National Park, but his accomplishments during his time there, during his military career, and his entire life paved the way for many black men who came after him.

Born in Kentucky during the Civil War, Charles Young had set himself on a course that took him to places where a black man was not often welcome from an early age. Submitted photo.

Now, 96 years after his death, Col. Young’s name will remind us of his lifetime of service to his country and the lasting impact the Buffalo Soldiers played in our nation’s history.

On Veteran’s Day, Monday, Nov. 11, the National Park Service (NPS), the Colonel Charles Young Foundation and the Sequoia Parks Conservancy will commemorate the legacy of Col. Young by renaming a portion of State Highway 198 from Salt Creek Road to the Sequoia National Park entrance as “Colonel Charles Young Memorial Highway.”

“This is an important celebration for the National Park Service and the State of California,” Superintendent Woody Smeck said, “It recognizes the significant contributions made by the Buffalo Soldiers and then Captain Charles Young to early park protection and administration.”

The dedication event will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. across from the Foothills Visitor Center, 47050 Generals Highway in Three Rivers, and will include interactive activities and demonstrations about the Buffalo Soldier history and connection to the parks.

Born in Kentucky during the Civil War, Charles Young had set himself on a course that took him to places where a black man was not often welcome from an early age. He was the first black to graduate from the white high school in Ripley, Ohio, and through competitive examination he won an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1884. He went on to graduate with his commission, only the third black man to do so.

His military career progressed in the cavalry. In 1903, he was serving as a Captain in the Cavalry commanding a segregated black company at the Presidio of San Francisco when he received orders to take his troops to Sequoia National Park for the summer where they fought wildfires and poaches and worked on the infrastructure of the park. As Acting Superintendent of Sequoia National Park, Young and his men were tasked with extending the wagon road through the park and in one summer built as much roadway as other crews had built in the previous three summers.

“It is a fitting tribute to name a portion of the highway Colonel Young traveled, after him, and we are grateful to everyone who helped make this historic moment possible. It is more imperative now more than ever to ensure that the achievements and contributions of this great man in American history are never forgotten. We must continue to celebrate the diversity of our nation as a moral and strategic imperative with a goal to inspire individuals to act and serve with the same courage, hard work and dedication that Colonel Charles Young fostered in his everyday life,” Renotta Young, Chair of the Colonel Charles Young Foundation said.

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