For the second year in a row, Black women at West Point Military Academy have made history. This year’s graduating class included 38 Black women, making it the highest recorded number of Black female cadets in the school’s 218 year history, Vogue reports. This is an increase from last year's history making number of 34 Black women graduates.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point has a rich history that includes producing army generals and presidents to include George Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The school’s mission to “educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets” through their leadership development programs is a staple in their training. But their goal of creating “honorable [and morally-ethical]” cadets has largely been in service of white males.
According to CNN, West Point recognizes this and created its first office of diversity in 2014, in an effort to “attract, retain and promote a more diverse workforce.” By 2017, numbers had already begun increasing and the academy selected Simone Askew as the first Black First Captain for cadets. They continued to move the needle towards progress, appointing their first Black superintendent, Lt. General Darryl A. Williams in 2018. Diverse enrollment continues to increase slowly, but steady, and this year, out of the 1,017 cadets to graduate, 38 of them were Black women.
West Point’s Diversity and Inclusion Studies program acknowledges the fact that it's a significant increase in a short amount of time, with just 13 Black women graduating in 2013. Shalela Dowdy, a West Point alum, spoke about the uptick in Black women cadets, saying, “There were only 13 in my class, I just counted, but the numbers keep going up and up. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see leaders graduating from the school that are from all different kinds of backgrounds and represent the diversity of the army itself. It makes me feel prideful that the academy is acknowledging diversity.”
Last year, the class of 2019 broke the record for the largest graduating class of Black women. At the time, Cadet Tiffany Welch-Baker spoke to BOTWC, saying, “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.”
Judging by the increase in class size from last year to now, they understand this potential and more. Congratulations to all the new cadets!
Photo Courtesy of SFC Josephine Pride/USMA PAO