National Park Service Founders: Charles Young
  • description

    Charles Young

    Cultural Resources National Park Service

Charles Young was born March 12, 1864, in Mayslick, Kentucky, the son of former slaves. As a young man he had an opportunity to enter a competitive examination for appointment as a cadet at West Point. Young was successful, making the second highest score, and in 1883 reported to the military academy. Young graduated with his commission, the third black man to do so at that time. In 1903 Young served as captain of a black company at the Presidio, San Francisco. He was appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant national parks, thus becoming the first black superintendent of a national park.

image of the Presidio in California

See For Yourself

Visit places within today's National Park System where Charles Young served including the Presidio of San Francisco when he was a military officer and later Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park where he served as the first acting superintendent.

Image of the buffalo soldier statue

For Teachers

Learn more about Captain Young and the buffalo soldiers with these on-line resources for teachers.

Image of Captian Charles Young

Inside Story

"... his constructive influence with his people was ever a potent factor..." Learn more in Charles Young's Biographical Vignette.

historic image of the buffalo soldiers


According to legend, Native Americans called
the Black cavalry troops "buffalo soldiers"
because of their dark curly hair, which resembled a buffalo's coat. Aware of the buffalo's fierce bravery and fighting spirit, the African American troops accepted the name with pride and honor.

image of Colonel Charles Young's grave at Arlington


Visit Colonel Charles Young's grave Arlington National Cemetery. He was the first African American to obtain the rank fo Colonel in the U.S. Army. He died in Monrovia, Liberia in 1923.

image of trail building in Sequoia National Park


Young and his troopers accomplished more in that one summer than their predecessors had in a full decade. They completed the first road to the Giant Forest, making the grove easily accessible for the first time. On the day the road opened, modern tourism began in Sequoia National Park.

Image of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II


In spite of adversity and limited opportunities, African Americans such as Charles Young have played a significant role in U.S. military history over the past 300 years. The Tuskegee Airmen included black pilots, navigators, bombardiers who help bring victory in World War II.

image of visitors at Sequoia National Park


Restoration continues at Sequoia National Park 107 years after Charles Young first began work on the park. The goal of the Giant Forest restoration project is to restore the ecological health of the Giant Forest sequoia grove, home of the world's largest trees, and create opportunities for outstanding national park experiences.