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Born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, on March 21, 1856, Henry Ossian Flipper was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1873. Over the next four years he overcame harassment, isolation, and insults to become West Point's first African American graduate and the first African American commissioned officer in the regular U.S. Army. Flipper was stationed first at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, later served at Forts Elliott, Quitman, and Davis, Texas. He served as a signal officer and quartermaster, fought Apaches, installed telegraph lines, and supervised the building of roads. At Fort Sill, the young lieutenant directed the construction of a drainage system that helped prevent the spread of malaria. Still known as "Flipper's Ditch," the ditch is commemorated by a bronze marker at Fort Sill and the fort is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
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