Next week, 34 black women will graduate from West Point military academy—a record in the prestigious school’s 216-year history.
“Last year’s graduating class had 27,” West Point spokesman Frank Demaro told CNN. “And the expectation is next year’s class will be even larger than this year’s.”
In 2014, West Point created an office of diversity, with the goal of recruiting more women and minority students and diversifying its leadership. Two years ago, Simone Askew became the first African-American woman appointed First Captain and West Point, and in 2018, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. William was made West Point’s first black superintendent.
“Also, this year’s class will have the highest number of female Hispanic graduates along with graduating our 5,000th female cadet since the first class of women to graduate in 1980,” Demaro noted.
These milestones represent a significant departure from much of the school’s history. As the Philadelphia Tribune points out, the first black cadet did not graduate from West Point until 1877—some 75 years after the school was founded in New York State. No black cadets graduated during the first decades of the 20th century, until the arrival of Benjamin O. Davis Jr. in 1932; he was forced to eat and room separately from his white classmates.
Tiffany Welch-Baker, who is part of the 2019 class, told Because of Them We Can that she initially wondered whether attending West Point was the right choice for her, but was ultimately reassured by meeting “so many cadets that looked like me, and that offered me some comfort.”
“My hope when young black girls see these photos,” she added, “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.”
Read more at CNN.