News Reports about Lieutenant Flipper – Henry Flipper

Here is an editorial article from the New York Tribune. It needs no comment, nor do the two following, which were clipped from the Christian Union.

Lieutenant Flipper.”Among the West Point graduates this year is young Flipper, a lad of color and of African descent. It is stated that he acquitted himself very respectably in his examination by the Board of Visitors, that he will pass creditably, and that he will go into the cavalry, which is rather an aristocratic branch, we believe, of the service. Mr. Flipper must have had rather a hard time of it during his undergraduate career, if, as we find it stated, most if not all his white fellow students have declined to associate with him. He has behaved so well under these anomalous circumstances, that he has won the respect of those who, so far as the discipline of the school would permit, ignored his existence. We have no feeling against him, said one of the students, but still we could not associate with him. It may be prejudice, but still we couldn’t do it. Impossibilities should be required of no one, and if the white West Pointers could not treat Mr. Flipper as if he were one of themselves, why of course that is an end of the matter. So long as they kept within the rules of the service, and were guilty of no conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, it was not for their commanders to interfere. But when they tell us that they couldn’t possibly associate with Mr. Flipper, who is allowed to have shown pluck and gentlemanly qualities, we may at least inquire whether they have tried to do so. Conquering prejudices implies a fight with prejudices have these young gentlemen had any such fight? Have they too shown pluck and gentlemanly qualities?

“We are not disposed to speak harshly of these fastidious young fellows, who will not be long out of the school before they will be rather sorry that they didn’t treat Mr. Flipper a little more cordially. But a much more important matter is that he has, in spite of his color, made a good record every way, has kept up with his class, has not been dropped or dismissed, but emerges a full blown Second Lieutenant of Cavalry. He has thus achieved a victory not only for himself but for his race. He has made matters easier for future colored cadets; and twenty years hence, if not sooner, the young white gentlemen of West Point will read of the fastidiousness of their predecessors with incredulous wonder. Time and patience will settle every thing.”

Cadet Flipper.

“The most striking illustration of class prejudice this year has been afforded, not by Mississippi or Louisiana, but by West Point. In 1873 Cadet Flipper entered the Military Academy. God had given him a black skin, a warm heart, an active brain, and a patriotic ambition. He was guilty of no other crime than that of being a Negro, and bent on obtaining a good education. He represented a race which had done as good fighting for the flag as any done by the fair skinned Anglo-Saxon or Celt. Congress had recognized his right and the right of his race to education.

“But his classmates decided that it should be denied him. If they had possessed the brutal courage of the murderers of Chisholm they would have shot him, or whipped him, or hung him; but they were not brave enough for that, and they invented instead a punishment worse than the State has inflicted upon its most brutal criminals. They condemned him to four years of solitude and silence. For four years not a classmate spoke to Cadet Flipper; for three years he did not hear his own voice, except in the recitation room, on leave of absence, or in chance conversation with a stray visitor. Then another Negro entered West Point, and he had one companion. The prison walls of a Sing Sing cell are more sympathetic than human prejudice. And in all that class of 77 there were not to be found a dozen men brave enough to break through this wall of silence and give the imprisoned victim his liberty. At least two thirds of the class are Republican appointees; and not one champion of equal rights. In all that class but one hero and he a Negro. Seventy-five braves against one! And the one was victorious. He fought out the four years campaign, conquered and graduated. Honor to the African; shame to the Anglo Saxon.”

Cadet Flipper Again.

“We have received several letters on the subject of Cadet Flipper, to whose treatment at West Point we recently called the attention of our readers. One of them is from a former instructor, who bears a high testimony to Lieutenant Flipper s character. He writes:

” I want to thank you for your editorial in the Christian Union about Cadet Flipper. He was one of our boys; was with us in school from the beginning of his education till Freshman year in college, when he received his appointment to West Point. He was always obedient, faithful, modest, and in every way manly. We were sorry to have him leave us; but now rejoice in his victory, and take pride in him.

” During all these years, in his correspondence with his friends, he has not, so far as I can learn, uttered a single complaint about his treatment.

“A second is from a Canadian reader, who objects to our condemnation of the Anglo-Saxon race, and insists that we should have reserved it for the Yankees. In Canada, he assures us, the color line is unknown, and that Negroes and Anglo-Saxons mingle in the same school and in the same sports without prejudice. Strange to say the white men are not colored by the intercourse.

“The third letter comes indirectly from Lieutenant Flipper himself. In it the writer gives us the benefit of information derived from the lieutenant. We quote (the italics are ours):

” Mr. Flipper is highly respected here, and has been received by his former teachers and friends with pleasure and pride. His deportment and character have won respect and confidence for himself and his race. As to his treatment at West Point, he assures me that the “papers” are far astray. There was no ostracism on the part of his fellow-cadets, except in the matter of personal public association. He was invariably spoken to and treated courteously and respectfully both as a cadet and officer.

“We are glad to be assured that it was not as bad as we had been informed by what we considered as good authority; and we are still more glad to know that Lieutenant Flipper, instead of making much of his social martyrdom, has the good sense to make as light of it as he conscientiously can. But if it is true that there were cadets who did not sympathize with the action of the class, and were brave enough to speak to their colored comrade in private, it was a pity that they were not able to screw their courage up to a little higher point, and put the mark of a public condemnation on so petty and cruel a persecution.”

The people at large seem to be laboring under a delusion about West Point, at least the West Point that I knew. I know nothing of what West Point was, or of what was done there before I entered the Academy. I have heard a great deal and read a great deal, and I am compelled to admit I have doubts about much of it. At the hands of the officers of the institution my treatment didn’t differ from that of the other cadets at all, and at the hands of the cadets themselves it differed solely “in the matter of personal public association.” I was never persecuted, or abused, or called by approbrious epithets in my hearing after my first year. I am told it has been done, but in my presence there has never been any thing but proper respect shown me. I have mentioned a number of things done to me by cadets, and I have known the same things to be done to white cadets. For instance, I was reported for speaking to a sergeant about the discharge of his duty.  The same thing occurred to several members of the class of 74. They were ordered into the rear rank by a sergeant of the second class, when they were first-classmen. They were white. The result was they were all, three in number, I think, put in arrest.

Some New England paper contributes the following articles to this discussion, parts of which I quote:

The Bigot And The Snob
“The Hilton-Seligman controversy is one of those incidents which illustrate some of the features of our social life. The facts can briefly be stated. A Jewish gentleman, of wealth and position, applies for rooms at the Grand Union Hotel, Saratoga, and is flatly refused admission because he is a Jew. The public indignation is so great that the manager of the hotel is obliged to defend the act, and puts in the plea that a man has the right to manage his property as he pleases.”But before our anger cools, let us remember the case of the colored cadet at West Point. During his course he met with constant rebuffs. He was systematically cut by his fellow schoolmates. Instead of extending to him a generous sympathy in his noble ambition, they met him with sneers. All the feelings which should guide a chivalric soldier and lead him to honor real heroism, were quenched by the intense prejudice against color. Mean and despicable as is the spirit which prompted the manager of the Grand Union Hotel to refuse to entertain the rich Jewish banker, that which influenced the young men at West Point is still more deserving scorn and contempt. It was meaner and more contemptible than cowardice.”

Prejudice Against Color.

Within the last thirty years there has been a great change in public sentiment relating to colored persons. That it has become wholly just and kind cannot be shown; but it is far less unjust and cruel than it used to be. In most of the old free States, at least, tidy, intelligent, and courteous American citizens of African descent are treated with increasing respect for their rights and feelings. In public conveyances we find them enjoying all the consideration and comforts of other passengers. At our public schools they have cordial welcome and fair play. We often see them walking along the street with white schoolmates who have evidently lost sight of the difference in complexions. Colored boys march in the ranks of our school battalions without receiving the slightest insult. Colored men have been United States senators and representatives. Frederick Douglass is Marshal of the District of Columbia.

“There is one conspicuous place, however, where caste feeling seems to have survived the institution of slavery, and that is West Point. There the old prejudice is as strong, active, and mean as ever. Of this there has been a recent and striking instance In the case of young Flipper who has just graduated. It appears that during his whole course this worthy young man was subjected to the most relentless snubbing. All his fellow students avoided him habitually. In the recitation room and upon the parade ground, by day and by night, he was made to feel that he belonged to an inferior and despised race, and that no excellence of deportment, diligence in study, or rank in his class could entitle him to the recognition accorded to every white dunce and rowdy. Yet with rare strength of character he persevered, and when, having maintained the standing of No. fifty in a class of seventy-six, he received his well earned diploma, there was a round of tardy applause.

“If West Point is to continue to be a school characterized by aristocracy based upon creed, race, or color, so undemocratic and unrepublican as to be out of harmony with our laws and institutions, it will do more harm than good, and, like other nuisances, it should be abated. If our rulers are sincere in their professions, and faithful to their duties, a better state of things may be brought about. Military arts must be acquired somewhere; but if the present Academy cannot be freed from plantation manners, it may be well to establish a new one without pro-slavery traditions, or, as has been suggested by the Providence Journal, to endow military departments in the good colleges where character and not color is the test of worth and manhood.”

(From the New York Sun.)

Colored Cadet Flipper.Two Hundred Of His New York Admirers Honoring Him With A Reception.

“A reception was given last evening by Mr. James W. Moore, in the rooms of the Lincoln Literary Musical Association, 132 West Twenty-seventh Street, to Lieutenant H. O. Flipper, of Georgia, the colored cadet who has just graduated at West Point. Mr. Moore has had charge of the sick room of Commodore Garrison since his illness. The chandeliers were decorated with small flags. On a table on the platform rested a large basket of flowers, bearing the card of Barrett H. Van Auken, a grandson of Commodore Garrison. Among the pictures on the wall were many relating to Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation. Cheerful music was furnished from a harp and violin.

“The guests began to arrive about nine o clock, the ladies in large numbers, and the room was soon abreeze with a buzz of conversation and the rustle of gayly colored dresses and bright ribbons.

“The grand entree was at a quarter before ten. Lieutenant Flipper entered the room in full uniform. A heavy yellow horse hair plume fell down over his cavalry helmet. His coat was new and bright, and glittered with its gold buttons and tasselled aigulets. By his side hung a long cavalry sabre in a gilt scabbard. His appearance was the signal for a buzz of admiration. He is very tall and well made. Beside him was Mr. James W. Moore. Behind him, as he walked through the thronged rooms, were the Rev. Dr. Henry Highland Garnett, and Mrs. Garnett; the Rev. E. W. S. Peck of the Thirty-fifth Street Methodist Church; Mr. Charles Remond Douglass, son of Fred Douglass, and United States Consul in San Domingo; the Rev. J. S. Atwell, of St. Philip s Episcopal Church; the Rev. John Peterson; Professor Charles L. Reason, of the Forty-first Street Grammar School; John J. Zuilille; Richard Robinson, and others.

“The Lieutenant was led upon the stage by Mr. Garnett and seated at the extreme left, while Dr. Garnett took a seat at the extreme right. Next to the Lieutenant sat Miss Martha J. Moore and Miss Fanny McDonough, Mr. P. S. Porter, Dr. Ray, Mr. Atwell, and Professor Reason completed the semicircle, of which Lieutenant Flipper and Dr. Garnett formed the extremities. The Rev. Mr. Atwell sat in the middle.

“After all were seated, Dr. Garnett called Mr. Douglass forward to a vacant seat on the platform. In introducing Lieutenant Flipper, Dr. Garnett said he had honored himself and his race by his good scholarship and pluck. Nowhere else was there, he thought, such iron bound and copper covered aristocracy as in West Point. Who could have thought that any one wearing the shadowed livery of the burnished sun would ever dare to be an applicant? Young Smith s high personal courage had led him to resent a blow with a blow, and his career in the Academy was cut short. Lieutenant Flipper had encountered the same cold glances, but he had triumphed, and appeared before his friends in the beautiful uniform of the national army. (Applause.) The Doctor believed he would never disgrace it. (Applause, and waving of handkerchiefs by the ladies.)

“At the close of his address, Dr. Garnett said: Ladies and gentlemen, I take great pleasure in introducing to you Lieutenant H. O. Flipper. The Lieutenant rose and bowed low, his hands resting on the hilt of his sabre. He said nothing. Mr. Douglass was introduced, but excused himself from speaking.

“Then Mr. James Crosby was called on. He said when the regiment in which he was orderly sergeant had marched to Port Hudson, General met it, and said to Colonel Nelson: Colonel, what do you call these? I call them soldiers, answered Colonel Nelson. Well, if these are soldiers, and if I ve got to command niggers, the government is welcome to my commission. Take them down to the right to General Payne. He likes niggers. Soon afterward, added Mr. Crosby, occurred that terrible slaughter of the colored troops which you all remember so well. This year Lieutenant Flipper and a nephew of General graduated in the same class, and the colored man rated the highest.

“After the addresses Lieutenant Flipper descended to the floor, and without formal introductions shook hands with all. He had taken off his cavalry helmet while sitting on the stage. Lemonade and ice cream were served to the guests. About two hundred persons, all colored, were present. The Lieutenant will start for his home in Georgia on Monday. He will join his regiment, the Tenth Cavalry, on the Rio Grande in November.”

(From the Atlanta (Ga.) Constitution.)

Flipper Again.
“Flipper has flopped up again, and seems to be decidedly in luck. He has been transferred to the Tenth Cavalry, which is alluded to by a New Orleans paper as the Tenth Nubian Light Foot. This, it seems to us, is a dark hint as to the color of this gallant corps, but as the State of Texas lies somewhere between New Orleans and the Rio Grande, we suppose the matter will be allowed to pass. But as to Flipper, Flipper has got his regiment and he has had a reception at the hands of his colored friends and acquaintances in New York. Common people are generally embarrassed at receptions given to themselves, but not so with Flipper. The reception was exceedingly high toned, as well as highly colored, and took place in the rooms of the Lincoln Literary Musical Association. Flipper, rigged out in full uniform, with a yellow horse hair plume flowing felicitously over his cavalry helmet, sailed in, according to accounts, just as chipper and as pert as you please. There was no lager beer handed around, but the familiar sound of the band, which was composed of a harp and a violin, made its absence painfully apparent. There were few speeches, but the affair was decidedly formal. When every thing was ready for business, a party of the name of Garnett rose and introduced Flipper, and in the course of his remarks took occasion to attack the newly made lieutenant by accusing him of wearing the shadowed livery of the burnished sun. Whereupon Flipper got up, placed his hands on the hilt of his bloody sabre, and bowed. The crowd then shook hands all around, the music played, and lemonade and ice cream were brought out from their hiding places, and all went merry as the milkman s bell. As we said before, Flipper is in luck. He is a distinguished. young man. He will reach home during the present week, and it is to be hoped that his friends here are ready to give him an ice cream lunch, or something of that kind.”

(From the Christian Recorder.)

Lieutenant Flipper In New York His Reception Calls On Belknap.
“Lieutenant Flipper has, by his manly conduct and noble bearing, his superior intellectual powers shown his fellow cadets and tutors that all the colored student wants is a chance. His term of four years, his graduation, his appointment, will all mark a new era in American history. That the feat he has accomplished is appreciated has been shown in too many ways to mention. His advent into New York City was marked by many courtesies. His friends, not unmindful of his new field and position, tendered him a grand reception at Lincoln Literary Hall on the 30th of June. It was the writer s good fortune to arrive at New York just in time to be present and pay him similar honors with others. The hall was tastefully and beautifully decorated with flowers and flags, representing the different States in the Union. At the appointed hour the distinguished guests were seen gathering, filling the hall to its utmost capacity. Among the number we noticed especially Dr. H. H. Garnett and Processor Reason. A few and appropriate remarks were made by Dr. Garnett as an introduction, after him others followed. After these formal exercises were over, Mr. Flipper came down from the rostrum and welcomed his friends by a hearty shake of the hand, then all supplied the wants of the inner man by partaking of cream, cake, and lemonade, which were so bountifully supplied. The evening was certainly a pleasant one, as delightful as one could wish, and I presume there was no one present who did not enjoy himself. In addition to what has already been mentioned the occasion was still more enlivened by the strains of sweet music. The exercises of the evening being concluded, the distinguished guests departed each one for his home. Lieutenant Flipper spent some days in New York, and during this visit, as he tells me, ex-Secretary Belknap sent him a written invitation to call on him. This he did, and was received very cordially and congratulated on the victory achieved. He spoke of the pros and cons, and seemed anxious that success might attend his footsteps in all the avenues of army life. That Belknap is interested in the young soldier and desires his success I do not deny; but whether the ex-Secretary would have given him any assistance when in his power is a question I shall not presume to answer.”

(From the Atlanta (Ga.) Constitution.)

Flying Around the Flipper

His Reception Upon His Return Home Eagerness To Shake The Hand Of The “Bad Man Wid De Gub Ment Strops On!” A Social Reception On Monday Night.

“Flip’s done come home! was the familiar, and yet admiring manner in which the young Negroes about town yesterday spread the information that Second Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper, of the Tenth Cavalry, and the first colored graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, had arrived. His coming has created quite a sensation in colored circles, and when he appeared upon the streets, last evening, taking a drive with his delighted father, he was the cynosure of all the colored people and the object of curious glances from the whites. The young man had been there before, however, and took all the ogling with patience and seeming indifference. Once in awhile he would recognize an old acquaintance and greet him with a smile and a bow.

“The last number of Frank Leslie s Illustrated Newspaper contains an excellent likeness of Flipper, dressed in his cadet uniform. His features betray his intelligence, and indicate the culture which he has acquired by hard study. His arrival here was the occasion of a buzz about the Union depot. His parents and a number of intimate friends were present to receive him, and the scene was an interesting one to all concerned.

“Dat s him! said a dozen of the curious darkeys who stood off and hadn’t the honor of the youth s acquaintance. They seemed to feel lonesome.

“He s one ob de United States Gazettes! shouted a young darkey, in reply to a query from a strange Negro who has moved here since Flipper went away.

“But the young officer was speedily spirited out of the crowd and taken home to his little bed for a rest.

“On the streets he was greeted by many of our citizens who knew him, and who have watched his career with interest. His success was complimented, and he was urged to pursue his course in the same spirit hereafter. Among his colored friends he was a lion, and they could not speak their praises in language strong enough.

“A darkey would approach the young man, cautiously, feel of his buttons and clothes, and enthusiastically remark: ” Bad man wid de gub ment strops on!

“These were the expressions of admiration that best suited the ideas of his delighted acquaintances. They will give him a reception on Monday night next, at which all his friends will be present, and some of our leading white citizens will be invited to be present.

“We will try and give the young man s views and experiences in tomorrow s issue.”

This paper is noted for its constant prevarication. Whatever it says about Negroes is scarcely worth noticing, for be it in their favor or not it is almost certainly untrue. My “delighted father” was not within three hundred miles of Atlanta when I reached that place. I did not appear on the streets in uniform for several days after my arrival, and then only at the request of many friends and an officer of the Second Infantry then at McPherson Barracks.

(From the Atlanta (Ga.) Republican)

“Lieutenant Flipper arrived in our city last week on a visit to his friends. His father lives in Thomasville, but he was educated in this city. His intelligence and manly course has won for him the praise of even the Bourbons.”

(From the, Atlanta (Ga.) Republican.)

“We acknowledge the courtesy of an invitation to a reception given to Lieutenant H. O. Flipper of the Tenth Cavalry, by his colored friends in Atlanta. Circumstances beyond our control prevented our attending.

“We are informed it was a pleasant affair, and that Lieutenant Flipper embraced the opportunity to give something of his four years experience at West Point, and to correct some of the misstatements of the Atlanta Constitution concerning the treatment he received while a cadet at the Military Academy. An article alluding to this subject has been crowded out this week, but will appear in our next issue.

(From the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle and Constitutionalist.)

A Falsehood

“The Cincinnati Gazette says: Lieutenant Flipper, the young colored man who is guilty of having been graduated with credit from West Point, continues to be the butt of Georgia Democratic journals. We would like to know where the Gazette gets its information. Flipper has been treated with nothing but kindness in Georgia. Wherever he has reviewed the colored military, accounts of the reviews have been published, but we have yet to see a single word in a Georgia paper in disparagement or ridicule of the colored graduate.”

Witness the following from the Atlanta Constitution:

Flipper As A Fraud

Freeman S Protege On Southern Civilization He Talks At The Reception And Makes Of Himself An Ass The Anomalous Creature On Exhibition He Shows The Cloven Foot.

“Last night the colored people of the city gave a reception to Flipper, of the United States Army. They did this from a feeling of pride over the fact that one of their color, a townsman, had succeeded in attaining his rank. They doubtless, little suspected that he would make such use of the occasion as he did. More than one of them so expressed their feeling before The evening ended. The relations between the races in this city have for years been such as to make remarks like those in which Flipper indulged not only uncalled for, but really distasteful. They are not to be blamed for his conduct.

“The crowd that gathered in the hall on the corner of Mitchell and Broad Streets was large. It was composed almost entirely of well dressed and orderly colored people. There were present several of the white male and female teachers of the Negro schools; also, some of our white citizens occupying back seats, who were drawn thither by mere curiosity.

“Flipper was dressed lavishly in regimentals and gold cord, and sat upon the stage with his immense and ponderous cavalry sabre tightly buckled around him. He had the attitude of Wellington or Grant at a council of war. He was introduced to the audience by J. O. Wimbish, a high toned Negro politician (as was) of this city, who bespattered the young warrior with an eulogy such as no school master would have written for less than $5 C.O.D. It was real slushy in its copiousness and diffusiveness.



MLA Source Citation:

Flipper, Henry Ossian. The Colored Cadet at West Point: Autobiography of Lieut. Henry Ossian Flipper, first graduate of color from the U. S. Military Academy. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 30 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/military/news-reports-about-lieutenant-flipper-henry-flipper.htm - Last updated on Mar 7th, 2013


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