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Col. Young Playground

Colonel Charles Young Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This playground honors Colonel Charles Young (1864-1922) a distinguished army officer, cartographer, teacher, and diplomat who pioneered the entrance of African Americans into fields that were previously closed to them. 

Young was born in Mayslick, Kentucky on March 12, 1864, one year before the end of the Civil War, and moved to Ohio at the age of nine. He graduated from Ripley Colored High School in 1880.  When he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1884, Young was the ninth African American to be admitted, and the third and last to graduate until nearly half a century later.

In 1894 he was assigned by the War Department to teach military science and tactics, in addition to French and mathematics, at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Young served on the home front during the Spanish-American War (1898), and served two tours in the Philippine Insurrection (1901-03). In 1906, Young became military attaché to Haiti, the first African American military attaché in United States history. In addition to making maps, Young reported to the Army War College on Haitian society and government, and wrote a book entitled Military Morale of Nations and Races (1912).

From 1912 to 1915 Young served as military attaché to Liberia, where he helped reorganize the National Military Constabulary. In 1916, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) awarded him the Spingarn Medal for his work in Liberia. Young established a school for African American soldiers at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. When he was found to be physically unfit for service in World War I, Young was retired and promoted to full Colonel. Young died in Lagos, Nigeria on January 8, 1922. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The City acquired this property in January 1944, and the playground opened to the public in September of that year. Built to accommodate a wide range of recreational interests, Colonel Young Playground features four basketball courts with bleachers, eight handball courts, four ball fields, a spray shower, play equipment, and swings. The playground was reconstructed in 2004, a project that included play and exercise equipment, safety surfacing, and a garden

The playground is located just north of the 369th Regiment Armory, home to the “Harlem Hellfighters”, an African American regiment that saw more combat than any other unit during World War I, and was also one of the most decorated. The playground and landmarked armory thus celebrate African American military heritage.

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  • Col. Young Playground Mural
  • Col. Young Playground Spray Showers
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  • Col. Young Playground Baseball Field

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