New Journal and Guide Staff
WEST POINT, NY
A record 32 African American women will make history when they graduate from West Point on Saturday, May 25.
Last year, there were 27. “Last year’s graduating class had 27,” said West Point spokesman Frank Demaro. “And the expectation is next year’s class will be even larger than this year’s.”
Last year, the school appointed Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams as its first African American superintendent. He succeeded Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, who had held the position since 2013. Williams graduated from West Point in 1983 and earned master’s degrees in leadership development, military art and science, and national security and strategic studies, West Point said.
He went on to serve as the deputy chief of staff of the United States Army in Europe in Germany, and the assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition.
In 2017, the academy for the first time selected an African American woman, Simone Askew, to serve at the top of the chain of command, for cadets.
She became the first African American woman to lead West Point’s 4,400 member Corps of Cadets as its First Captain/Brigade Commander. In this role, she’s the senior leader in her class, responsible for communicating between cadets and the administration and setting a class agenda.
“It makes me feel prideful that the academy is acknowledging diversity,” 2012 West Point alum Shalela Dowdy said.
Located in West Point, N.Y., the 217-year-old school was founded in 1802 but did not graduate its first African American cadet until 1877.The first African American 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 percent of cadets. According to The Philadelphia Tribune, West Point created a diversity office in 2014 to recruit more women and African Americans as cadets and faculty leaders.