Largest Class of Black Women Will Graduate from West Point

Thirty-two Black women will make history later this month as the largest class of Black women to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. In a photo obtained by Because We Can, a website that features Black news and photographs, the future graduates posed in uniform during the traditional Old Corps photoshoot to remember the historic moment.

A spokesperson from West Point confirmed to The North Star that the class will be the largest class of Black women to graduate from the academy. Graduation is set for May 25.

“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 We Can. “In just a short while I met so many cadets that looked like me, and that offered me some comfort,” she continued. “I have been fortunate to have my sisters in arms, we have been fortunate to have each other.”

The news of the historic moment quickly circulated on social media, and Twitter users praised the women for their accomplishments. “Congrats to the Ladies of West Point! THIS IS THE LARGEST CLASS OF BLACK WOMEN TO GRADUATE FROM WEST POINT!!” tweeted the Women’s March of LA. “Unless I’m mistaken, the class of 2019 has the honor of graduating the single largest class of Black women ever in West Point’s history. So much talent in this group! The future of our Army is in good hands,” tweeted one user.

The first African American to graduate from West Point was Henry Flipper, who was 21 when he graduated from the academy in 1877, according to the National Parks Service. In July 1877, he was assigned to the 10th United States Cavalry and became one of the two African American cavalry regiments organized after the Civil War.

Last year, Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams became the first Black officer to command West Point after he was given the position of the academy’s 60th superintendent, The Philadelphia Tribune reported.

In 2017, Simone Askew became the first African American woman to be appointed First Captain at the US Military Academy. Askew now leads a 4,400-member Corps of Cadets, according to a previous statement from the US Army. "Simone truly exemplifies our values of duty, honor, country. Her selection is a direct result of her hard work, dedication and commitment to the Corps over the last three years," Brigadier General Steven W. Gilland, commandant of cadets, said in the statement. "I know Simone and the rest of our incredibly talented leaders within the class of 2018 will provide exceptional leadership to the Corps of Cadets in the upcoming academic year."

In April, Sergeant 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first female African American soldier to graduate from US Army Ranger School. The 29-year-old completed the 62-day training course and will now wear the coveted black and gold Ranger tab. She told the radio station it is important to have more female non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the field to show other women they can become NCOs too.

“I need more NCOs to get out there… I have to lead from the front. It’s good to speak from experience. When you have soldiers who say ‘I don’t know if I can do that,’ I can say, ‘Well, I did it and so can you,'” Simmons told WBBM radio.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.