West Point Graduates Record Number Of African-American Women
This year's graduating class at West Point includes a record number of African-American women.
Yesterday, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point held its 2019 graduation ceremony, with Vice-President Mike Pence standing in for President Trump to deliver the Commencement Address. The most notable thing about yesterday’s events, though, was the record number of black women graduating in what is reportedly the most diverse class in Academy history:
A record number of African American women graduated from West Point military academy in New York.
Among the more than 200 female cadets in the 2019 graduating class, 34 were black women, the largest number of African American female graduates in the academy’s history.
U.S. Military Academy spokesman Francis DeMaro said last year’s class had 27 African American female graduates.
Overall there were 110 African American graduates, double the number from six years ago, in 2013.
Tiffany Welch-Baker told NBC’s “Nightly News” this week that in her journey to graduating from the military academy, she sometimes doubted herself.
“There are some moments here where you feel like, ‘Oh, am I worthy? Do I deserve to be here?'” she said.
Bria Erron said there were times at the school when she was the only woman of color, or woman of any race, in a class. Even with the increase, black women made up less than 4% of this year’s graduating class.
A photo of the women dressed in uniform as they posed on the steps of the U.S. Military Academy went viral on social media last week, sparking a wave of congratulatory messages.
“Almost two years ago, West Point grad Simone Askew became the first Black woman leader of the Corps of Cadets. This month, West Point will graduate the largest class of Black women in their history. Don’t let anyone tell you representation doesn’t matter,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. tweeted.
“Congratulations on entering the next great chapter of your lives,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. posted. “I know you are just getting started.”
“To see all of our sisters, us just standing there in solidarity,” she said of the photo.
“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,” Welch-Baker told the outlet Because of Them We Can earlier this month.
The extent of diversity in this year’s graduating class is a sign of just how much the military in general, and West Point itself, have changed over the course of recent decades. It was just forty-four years ago, for example, that Congress authorized the admission of women to the service academies, and that was a decision that took a generation or longer for the institution, its graduates and students, and the Army to adjust.
Additionally, while service academy admissions had been accepting African-American cadets since 1870, it wasn’t until 1979 that the USMA had its first African-American to lead the Corps of Cadets. That leader, Vincent Brooks, eventually became the Commander of American and United Nations forces in South Korea as well as serving in other top command positions in the Army all the way up to the Iraq War. Ten years after that, the institution had its first female leader of the Corps of Cadets, but the controversy over the admission of women still existed at the time and continued for some time thereafter. The fact that we’ve reached the point where the student body has become diverse as it is today is a positive reflection on the Academy and on the Army, which seems to have handled the process. Something reflected in yesterday’s graduating class.
The significance of this cannot be underestimated. While not all of these graduates will go on to make the Army their career, many of them will and many of those graduates are likely to rise higher and higher in the ranks until they too achieve the heights that General Brooks did before he retired. This is something that the American military has become used to, of course, and to no small degree it has done desegregation better than society as a whole. However, as the face of military leadership becomes more diverse that will likely serve as an example for other sectors of society.
Congratulations to all the new 2nd Lieutenants and good luck with your future careers.