Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum

His Story

Lt. Henry O. Flipper

Lt. Henry O. Flipper was the first black American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point in 1877. He was given the silent treatment during the last two years at West Point but still graduated in the top third of his class. He commanded the 10th Cavalry. While in charge of commissary funds at Ft. Davis, $2,561 was found to be missing. He was charged with embezzlement and acquitted in a court martial; but, he was found guilty of “conduct unbecoming an officer” for lying to investigators. He was dishonorably discharged from the Army in 1882.

Flipper blazed paths where no blacks had ventured before. He achieved many “firsts” in addition to graduation from West Point. He was a cavalry officer, surveyor, cartographer, civil and mining engineer, translator, patented inventor, editor, author, and special agent for the Justice Department.

In February 1999, President Clinton posthumously pardoned Lt. Flipper. The action will clear his record and could make him eligible for reburial in Arlington National Cemetery.

For more information about Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper, read:

Henry O. Flipper: West Point’s First Black Graduate by Jane Eppinga.
Through extensive research of military documents, court records, appeals and Flipper’s personal journals and published papers, this book reveals the uncertainty of acceptance of blacks in the military and in America after the Emancipation Proclamation. (Republic of Texas Press, Plano, TX)

The Court Martial of Lt. Henry O. Flipper by Charles M. Robinson, III.
Robinson makes exhaustive use of court records and other military sources and attempts to assess the fairness (or not) of the proceedings and whether the finding were motivated by racism. (Texas Western Press, El Paso, TX)

See the Travel Guide for landmarks relating to Lt. Flipper

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