Henry Ossian Flipper: Trailblazer at West Point

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About this sample


Words: 1374 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 1374|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Henry Ossian Flipper was the first colored cadet in USA military, upon successfully achieving the commission as a lieutenant. He got military education at United State Military academy at West point. That time was when only white people were in the command in military companies and black were at lower military grades. Henry O Flipper was first colored man to lead the team.

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While moving to his biological relationships, he was the eldest in his brothers. He was born in a slave family propertied by Rev. Reuben H. Lucky a methodologist minister of the place on March 21, 1956 in Thomasville, Thomas County, and Georgia. His father Festus Flipper was a shoemaker and carriage trimmer was firstly owned by Ephraim G Ponder.

After the retirement of Ponder and his slaves including young Flipper, who were mostly mechanics by skills and occupations, moved to Atlanta for the sake building manufacturing plants in Georgia. At the time, due to the marriage problem, Flipper was unable to move because of the reason both husband and wife, were owned by two different persons. He made a request to his owner to buy his wife for him so that he may move to the Georgia with Ponder. However, at that time ponder was unable to entertain his appeal because of the shortage of income resources. Then put same request in front of the wife owner but he also was unable to make the deal. After that with his own saving, he bought his wife, moved to the Georgia.

Henry was born there. There was a young passionate man who wanted to teach the children of slave, so in a cottage, a school was opened and Henry O Flipper started his education, while being in slavery his parents managed to get him education but the slavery was a big question of the day and his education was effected badly. He admitted to Atlanta University where he got further chance to be appointed at United States Military Academy at west point. An article that was published in Thomasville Paper in June 1874 gave more information about his early life as:

It is not generally known that Atlanta has a Negro cadet at the United States National Military Academy at West Point. This cadet is a mulatto boy named Flipper. He is about twenty years old, a stoutish fellow, weighing perhaps one hundred and fifty pounds, and a smart, bright, intelligent boy.

While coming to his professional life as a military student same journal says that he was a great soldier of the military factory for a year and a Congressman recommended him as the progressive student of the West Point. He remained in the middle of the 90 students of the batch .He was one of the two famous colored students. Other one was the smith. Later was the good guy too but he couldn’t manage to triumph like Flipper. He was not the first African-American there but was first graduate as a cadet and receives a commission. Unlike other colored people beard racism and hardships rather he e excelled in engineering and law subjects. He graduated and then he wrote the colored code at West Point.

As informed earlier, he fought racial behavior through his cadet course, remained calm and patient in that bully environment and became the only colored guy to graduate from the West Point academy and not only thrived but also excelled other students in different students. As described by the H.O. Flipper himself that it was predicted that like Smith, pathways for Flipper would not be easy and stand able. His ability and strictness will be checked and it will be sure that he does not find the way to summit. However, he did.

After his graduation, he was honored with a rank second lieutenant and became the first African American who was in leadership command for the military troops. Before this African-American, people ware commanded by the white people but time was changed and he made the historical achievement for himself and the African-American people too. He described in the book about his first day of joining as. It was May 20th, 1873. At the day of joining, he was trembling but yet he was confident. As illustrated through the edited version of the Colored Cadet by an author:

Having reached another office, I was shown in by the orderly. I walked in, hat in hand–nay, rather started in– when three cadets, who were seated in the room, simultaneously sprang to their feet, and welcomed me somewhat after this fashion:

“Well, sir, what do you mean by coming into this office in that manner, sir? Get out of here, sir.”

This was one of his first day and was full of the fun he was superior to the cadets because this was the day of his joining for him as an officer who will be leader of a regiment.

His first assignment was too lead Troop A, 10th Cavalry Regiment that was also known as the Buffalo Soldiers. At the time when he was at Fort Sill, he utilized his engineering skills constructed the drainage system to save the people from malaria. This project was a success and was a historical landmark that was named as Flipper’s Ditch. His military career was on a dispute later. He was accused of corruption of more than $ 3000. In regard of that, he was dishonorably discharged from the rank.

After his dismissal, a request was made to free his name from the court martial accusation and honor him again, but from the department it rejected by a notice that accusation couldn’t be taken back by the law.After this setback, he started as civilian person. He practiced the engineering skills for governmental and non-governmental projects.

His services included working as surveying engineer, author, translator and the special agent of the justice department and special assistant to the Secretary of the interior with the Alaskan Engineering Commission. Consequently, he was not limited to the military services he was best at his other services too.

Moreover became the author of several books. One of his most popular books is Colored Cadet at West point and that was his first autobiography. In this autobiography, he presented a clear and vast view of the cadet times – from joining the school to classes, going to barracks, being in the company of the friends, strict behavior of the officers to him due to some mistakes.

“His impression made upon me by what I saw while going from the adjutant’s office to barracks was certainly not very encouraging. The rear windows were crowded with cadets watching my unpretending passage of the area of barracks.”

Above descriptions, illustrate his conduct throughout the course and living styles in Barracks. He was always discouraged by fear of facing to officers.

First Black graduate of the West Point and more books were compiled, reprinted and introduced by Theodore D. Harris. He has other services as well in Spanish and Mexico for the department of the Justice. These publications further supported the new communities and provided them with the laws and orders. His autobiography was the first motivate for the black race. Flipper initiated courageous thread of determination against the racial discrimination.

By going through the life’s epic blame and setback of dismissal from military alliance, he managed to live, work and fight against the accusation. Because that was dark stain on his white character that build up through his entire life. He has a reason to fight because the court martial had not found him guilty but still he was discharged in dishonor.

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He born as a slave then excelled to prove himself as great learner, engineer, writer, student and the military leader. He kept appealing for the honor and grace. He fought his case. Written letters to the Congressman Hill advised him that asking for the justice is the right of the every American citizen but in his lifetime, he could not get what he deserved. He died in 1940 without finding the justice. However, later in 1976 Army granted him an Honorable discharge and then Bill Clinton issued him a pardon letter. Thus, the man of bravery and diligence got justice after years of his death.

Works Cited

  1. Flipper, H. O. (1878). The Colored Cadet at West Point: Autobiography of Lieut. Henry Ossian Flipper, U. S. A., First Graduate of Color from the U. S. Military Academy. H. O. Flipper.
  2. Harris, T. D. (Ed.). (2001). Henry Ossian Flipper: West Point's First Black Graduate. University of Missouri Press.
  3. Henderson, A. S. (2005). The Man Who Would Not Be Dismissed: The Trial of Henry O. Flipper, First Black Graduate of West Point. University Press of Kansas.
  4. Smith, J. D. (1994). The Colored Cadet at West Point: Four Autobiographies. Bison Books.
  5. Grant, A. (2010). The Forgotten First: Busting the Myths of the First Black Cadets at West Point. Schiffer Publishing.
  6. Dickerson, A. J. (2019). Black Cadet in a White Bastion: Charles Young at West Point. Naval Institute Press.
  7. McKee, D. (2019). Our Country, Our War: The Press and Diplomacy in Afghanistan. Potomac Books.
  8. Perry, M. J. (2015). Lift Up Thy Voice: The Grimke Family's Journey from Slaveholders to Civil Rights Leaders. Oxford University Press.
  9. Stewart, J. M. (2017). Stonewall Jackson at West Point: The Long Gray Line. Westholme Publishing.
  10. Snyder, L. R. (2019). Encyclopedia of Western Lawmen & Outlaws. University of Oklahoma Press.
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Henry Ossian Flipper: Trailblazer at West Point. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“Henry Ossian Flipper: Trailblazer at West Point.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
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