A record 32 African-American women are set to graduate from West Point next week, the number from one class in the military institution’s r 217-year history.
They are part of a cadet cadre that is increasing annually, school spokesman Frank Demaro told CNN. Last year there were 27, he said, “and the expectation is next year’s class will be even larger than this year’s.”
It was only last year that Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams was appointed as the first black officer ever in command of the United States Military Academy, noted The Root. And just a year earlier, Simone Askew became the first black woman to lead the school’s 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 focuses on issues and achievements central to African-Americans.
West Point was founded in 1802 but did not graduate its first black cadet until 1877, according to The Philadelphia Tribune, a newspaper focused on African-Americans. The first black cadet to graduate in the 20th century attended in 1932.
Women weren’t admitted to West Point at all until the class of 1980, according to CBS News. Today they make up about 20% of cadets, The Philadelphia Tribune said, noting that West Point created a diversity office in 2014 to recruit more women and African-Americans as cadets and faculty leaders.
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