A record number of black female cadets are set to graduate from West Point (The United States Military Academy). After completing four years of education and “testing their limits,” 34 black women will be walking across the stage at the 2019 commencement ceremony for the first time in the school’s 217-year history.
Earlier this month, the black female cadets came together for a pre-graduation group photo. Little did they know, the photos of them in traditional Old Corps uniforms with ceremonial sabers would make their rounds on social media.
“My hope when young Black girls see these photos is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability an fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with,” shared one of the cadets, Tiffany Welch-Baker, in an interview with Because Of Them We Can.
Although West Point admitted its first black cadet until 1870, the academy didn’t graduate its first black cadet until the Reconstruction in 1877. In 1979, Vincent K. Brooks was made the first black captain of the Corps of Cadets. In 2017, Simone Askew became the first Black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets.
Senior cadet Stephanie Riley told Associated Press in another interview: “I just showed myself and those who thought I couldn’t do it initially that yes, I can. And not just, ‘Yes, I can.’ I can show other little girls that yes, you can come to West Point. Yes, you can do something that maybe the rest of your peers aren’t actually doing. And yes, you can be different from the rest of the group.”
The class of 2019 includes a total of 223 women, another milestone since the first female cadets’ graduation in 1980. The total number of graduation African Americans doubled to 110, while the number of graduating Latinos became the largest, 88, in the academy’s history. West Point also appointed Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams as its first black superintendent in July 2018.
Not only will West Point be graduating its 5,000th female cadet, but it will also have its highest number of female Hispanic graduates, 19. The commencement ceremony is set for Saturday, May 25, with Vice President Mike Pence delivering the commencement speech.
Congratulations to the black ladies of West Point’s graduating Class of 2019!