Dreams do come true Author draws from the past to inspire children’s future

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By describing a complex dream sequence in his new children’s book, Capt. Jarvis Buchanan of the U.S. Army’s 412th Theater Engineer Command hopes to remind children to follow their own dreams.

His first children’s book “I Dream in Color” tells the story of Jackson, a troubled youth who falls asleep while writing about his problematic day in his journal.

While asleep, Jackson dreams that he is transported back in time to 1877 where he meets a young Henry O. Flipper, the first black graduate of West Point. He soon learns that Flipper’s struggles in the 1870s are similar to his own.

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Buchanan said the book is meant to help kids learn from history and teach them to focus on long-term goals.

“It’s to get kids to understand that there’s more to life that what you see in front of you,” he said. “You don’t have to be subject to the things that you see and hear on TV.”

When Buchanan returned home from Afghanistan in July 2010 he heard several news sources saying kids weren’t reading as much and were struggling to learn history. He knew it would be tough to keep young students engaged with history.

When he was in school Buchanan said it was hard enough to concentrate on the past. Now, with today’s technological distractions, Buchanan said, he can see how history books can seem more like the dusty relics of the past than a gateway to expanding the mind.

“I needed to find a way to appeal to them and still teach them about history,” he said.

He was sitting at a library one day and decided it would be best to target children in grades four through six because they are still very impressionable.

Soon, he came up with Jackson, a boy about 12 years old who is anxious about moving up to the sixth grade because his family can’t afford new clothes or some of the other possessions his classmates have.

“This is a fact-based story, facts based on my life and facts based on the life of Henry Flipper,” Buchannan said.

When Buchanan, who now lives in Clinton, was Jackson’s age, he had the same troubles when he attended Houlka Attendance Center in Chickasaw County.

“I was in that position where I was ashamed of what I had and thought what I had wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I knew that there were some things out there that I could do to be successful, but I didn’t know what all those things were.”

Buchanan opted to join the U.S. Army and then attended the University of Mississippi where he was commissioned as an engineering officer. For Jackson’s inspiration in the book, Buchanan chose Flipper, who was also an engineer in the Army, because he is an inspirational figure who is often overlooked in history books.

“It’s someone they could say was cool but at the same time was somewhat educational,” he said. “This is the opportunity for me to show different history than the usual that we always hear about.”

During a portion of Jackson’s dream, Flipper is posing for a photo of all the West Point cadets. Because Flipper is black, the photographer tells him to fetch a pail of water then takes the picture without him, Buchanan said. That discrimination, even though it was racially motivated, is similar to what Jackson was experiencing because of his poverty.

“It starts to get at the discrimination on a general basis,” Buchanan said.

Flipper isn’t phased and tells Jackson that it’s not the type of clothes he wears or the color of his skin that’s important.

Before researching the book, Buchanan admits, he didn’t know much about Flipper, but now regards him as a personal hero.

Flipper’s struggles weren’t limited to West Point. He was falsely charged with embezzlement and dismissed from the Army in 1882. His name was cleared, 59 years after his death, on Feb. 19, 1999, by President Bill Clinton. After his military career ended, Flipper, undeterred, worked for a number of private engineering companies in the U.S. and Mexico before he was appointed a special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior in 1921. He finished his career working for an oil com-pany based in New York.

“Henry is definitely an inspiration,” Buchanan said.

Lt. Col. Angela Andrew, who is with the Technology and Business Architecture Integration Directorate Army G-1 based in the Pentagon, served with Buchanan in Afghanistan from August 2009 to July 2010. She said she sees a strong connection with Flipper and Buchanan.

“Flipper along with Jarvis were commissioned as engineers,” she said. “It was fitting that the book … was published this month as we as a nation celebrate Black History Month.”

Henry OssianFlipper


A former slave, Henry Flipper was the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

He earned the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and eventually became the first non-white officer to lead the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry.

He lost his Army commission and was court martialed in 1882 amid allegations of numerous improprieties.

In 1976 his descendants requested a military review of his record and officials changed his dismissal to a “good conduct discharge.”

Flipper was officially pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 1999.