West Point graduates largest class of black women

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This article originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

Thirty-two black women will graduate from the U.S. Academy at West Point later this month — the largest class of black women in the school’s history.

The news comes just a year after Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams became the first black officer to assume command at the 216-year-old academy, and Simone Askew became the first black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets.

Some of the graduates recently posed for photos to memorialize this significant moment in history.

“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 black news and photographs.

West Point, founded in 1802 along the west bank of the Hudson River 50 miles north of New York City, didn’t graduate its first Black cadet until the Reconstruction in 1877. (Courtesy Hallie Pound)

West Point, founded in 1802 along the west bank of the Hudson River 50 miles north of New York City, didn’t graduate its first black cadet until the Reconstruction in 1877. No black cadet had graduated in the 20th century when Benjamin O. Davis Jr. arrived in there in 1932.

Davis ate alone, roomed alone and was shunned by fellow cadets because he was black. After he graduated in 1936, he went on to command the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and retired as an Air Force general in 1970. West Point recently named cadet barracks for Davis.

An African American did not become first captain of the Corps of Cadets until 1979, when Vincent K. Brooks was tapped for the role. He later advanced to the rank of general and commanded U.S. forces in Korea from 2016 until his retirement in 2018.

Col. Kristin Baker was tapped to be the first female first captain of the Corps of Cadets in 1989. She went on to command Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe, Analytic Center.

Women make up about 20 percent of cadets, who are usually commissioned as first lieutenants in the Army upon graduation. The academy created a diversity office in 2014 with the goal of recruiting more women and African Americans and increasing diversity among department heads and other leaders.

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