Cabinet card engraved portrait of Henry O. Flipper after a photograph by Kennedy: Wilberforce, Ohio, circa 1877. Homer Lee & Co.: New York, n.d., circa 1899. Printer's mark in plate. Captioned with a facsimile signature and rank: "Henry O. Flipper / 2d Lieut. 10" Cavy." The verso is SIGNED and INSCRIBED by William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926): "Mr. H. O. Flipper 10th Cav. - the first Negro graduate from West Point - Class of '77. From Scarborough."
Born into enslavement, Henry Ossian Flipper was the fifth Black cadet to attend the United States Military Academy. But due to the rejection and discrimination by their white peers, the others dropped out. Flipper was able to persevere and became the first person of color to graduate from West Point and by some accounts received the best score at graduation. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment, becoming the first Black officer to command regular troops in the US Army.
William Sanders Scarborough was also born into enslavement and managed to surreptitiously gain an education. Upon gaining his freedom after the Civil War, he attended high school and went on to graduate from Oberlin College in 1875, returning to complete a master’s degree. In 1877, he became the first African American professional Classics scholar when he became a professor at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He led a distinguished career becoming the vice president and appointed president by 1908. Though his primary focus was Classics, he did hold an interest in and wrote about West Point's African American graduates and the Buffalo Soldiers [see Lots 43-44 in Part I of The Road West].
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