President Obama Applauds the Progress of Racial Diversity at the Naval Academy: But Much Work Remains to Be Done

This spring President Obama gave the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. In his remarks, President Obama said, “By building an institution that is more diverse than ever — more women, more Hispanics, more African Americans — the Naval Academy has reaffirmed a fundamental American truth: That out of many, we are one.”

But much progress remains to be accomplished. Of the 1,036 graduates of the Naval Academy this year, only 45, or 4.3 percent, are black. This is about one third the percentage of blacks in the U.S. college-age population.

Indeed, progress has been made. In 1949 Wesley Brown was the first African American to graduate from the Naval Academy. This was 72 years after the first black cadet graduated from West Point. Six other blacks had enrolled at Annapolis prior to Brown. None of them made it past the first year. It is rumored that one of these black students was tied to a buoy in the bay and abandoned by classmates. Between 1949 and 1968 only 0.02 percent of the 22,392 graduates of the Naval Academy were black.

Today blacks make up about 8 percent of the more than 42,000 officers in the U.S. Navy.