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Henry O. Flipper collection

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0037

Scope and contents

This small collection on Henry O. Flipper is primarily comprised of materials gathered in the planning for a commemorative ceremony honoring Flipper and recognizing his exoneration. The ceremony was sponsored jointly by Atlanta University and the Atlanta Branch of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. The program was held at Atlanta University on March 21, 1977. The program was initiated by a request from Ray MacColl, a Georgia school teacher. As a student at Valdosta College, MacColl became interested in the story of Henry O. Flipper. MacColl, with the assistance of members of the Flipper family, and lawyers, pursued efforts through the Army and the Congress for the vindication of Flipper. Success came in 1976, 94 years after Flipper's wrongful court-martial and dismissal.

The most significant item in this collection is a typed manuscript entitled "Biographical Sketches". This typescript is the memoir published in Negro Frontiersman: The Western Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper. Other materials in the collection include newsclippings about Flipper (most are from after his death) and copies of letters and resolutions written in the effort to exonerate him. There are programs and news articles related to events posthumously honoring Flipper after his exoneration. There are a few photographs of Flipper, some of his family members, images related to Flipper's military experience, and pictures from the commemorative ceremony at Atlanta University.


  • Creation: 1856-1940

Rights statement

All materials in this collection are either protected by copyright and/or are the property of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc., and/or the copyright holder as appropriate. For more information, please contact

Biographical note

Henry Ossian Flipper (1856 - 1940) was a soldier, engineer, and author. Born as a slave in Thomasville, Georgia, Henry and his family received their freedom as a result of the Civil War. Subsequently, the family settled in Atlanta where they prospered. Education was highly valued by the Flippers and the children were tutored then later attended American Missionary Associations schools in the city. Henry Flipper attended Atlanta University 1872 - 1873. In 1873 he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. Although not the first Negro to attend West Point, in 1877 he became the first graduate. Resented because of his race, white cadets socially ostracized Flipper and made his four years at West Point especially difficult. Upon graduation, Flipper was assigned to the all-Negro Tenth Cavalry Regiment and served at several forts in Oklahoma and Texas. While at Fort Davis, ,Texas in a general court-martial on November 4, 1881, Flipper was accused of embezzling funds. He was cleared of this charge, but found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and dismissed from the Army June 30, 1882. Flipper went on to become a successful engineer working in the Western U.S., Mexico, and Venezuela. His fluency in Spanish and knowledge of law were especially valuable assets in the work. He subsequently served in several government positions as a special agent, translator, and interpreter. In 1919 Flipper served as an assistant to the Secretary of the Interior. His autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point was published in 1878. His memoirs were posthumously published in 1963, Negro Frontiersman: The Western Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper (edited by Theodore D. Harris). Flipper also authored two books of law, Mexico Laws, Statutes (1892) and Venezuela Laws, Statutes (1925).

Henry O. Flipper died in Atlanta of a heart attack on May 3, 1940. Throughout his adult life, Flipper tried to clear his name from the court-martial and efforts continued after his death. Finally in 1976 the Army exonerated Flipper and awarded himn an honorable discharge.

Biographical timeline

Henry Ossian Flipper

1856 March 21
Born a slave in Thomasville, GA; one of four sons of Festus and Isabella Flipper
Attended Atlanta University
Appointed to the U.S. Military Academy (West Point, NY)
Became the first Negro graduate of West Point, commissioned as second lieutenant
1878 January
Assigned to the all-Negro Tenth Cavalry Regiment
Authored The Colored Cadet at West Point
1881 November 4
Accused of embezzling funds and conduct unbeoming an officer and a gentleman; found innocent of the first charge and guilty of the second
1882 June 30
Discharged from the Army
Worked in engineering, mining and surveying
1892, 1903
Served as a Special Agent of the Department of Justice in the Court of Private Land Claims
Authored Mexico Laws, Statutes
Relocated to Washington, D.C. to serve as a translator and interpreter for a subcommittee studying the impact of the Mexican Revolution on American economic interests; became assistant to Albert B. Fall, Secretary of the Interior
Worked for an oil company in Venezuela
Authored Venezuela Laws, Statutes
Moved to Atlanta, Ga.
1940 May 3
Died of heart attack
Negro Frontiersman: The Wesetern Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper (edited by Theodore D. Harris) published
Exonerated posthumously by the Army and received an honorable discharge


0.5 Linear feet

Language of Materials


Henry O. Flipper collection, 1856-1940
Finding aid prepared by Karen L. Jefferson, 2002 February
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


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