Listen to this story
On this day in 2019, U.S. Academy at West Point graduated 32 black women—the most in its 216-year history. In 2018, the military academy made history when Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams became the first from the global majority to assume command and the first woman of color, Simone Askew, became the first to lead the Corps of Cadets.
“My hope when young Black girls see these photos is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability and fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with,” cadet Tiffany Welch-Baker told Because of Them We Can, a website that features news and images of The Global Majority.
In 1877, West Point, which was founded in 1802 in New York, graduated its first Black cadet during Reconstruction, but didn’t have another Black graduate until Benjamin O. Davis Jr. arrived in 1932. Davis was shunned and ostracized during his stay. He even ate alone.
After graduation, he went on to command the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and retired as an Air Force general in 1970. West Point now has cadet barracks named for Benjamin O. Davis.
In 1979, Vincent K. Brooks became the first Black man to lead the Corps of Cadets for West Point, He later became a general, commanding U.S. forces in Korea from 2016 until he retired in 2018.