Wesley Brown, Naval Academy Pioneer

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Wesley Brown in Uniform i

In 1949, Wesley Brown... shown here in an Army uniform... became the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. He originally wanted to go to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Courtesy of Brown family hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Brown family
Wesley Brown in Uniform

In 1949, Wesley Brown... shown here in an Army uniform... became the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. He originally wanted to go to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Courtesy of Brown family
Program from graduation ceremony notes academy was founded in 1845.

Program cover for Brown's commencement ceremony shows it took more than a century for the first black to graduate from Annapolis. hide caption

itoggle caption
Hats sail into the air at the Annapolis graduation. i

Hundreds of hats sail into the upper reaches of the hall at an Academy graduation, a scene Brown vividly recalls. U.S. Naval Academy hide caption

itoggle caption U.S. Naval Academy
Hats sail into the air at the Annapolis graduation.

Hundreds of hats sail into the upper reaches of the hall at an Academy graduation, a scene Brown vividly recalls.

U.S. Naval Academy

Wesley Brown graduated from the Naval Academy in 1949. He was the first African American to do so.

Five others had tried: three during Reconstruction and two during the 1930s, but all were forced out by intense racism and even violence.

Brown, who began his military career with a stint in the Army before applying to the Naval Academy, also suffered great discrimination. A group of upper classman conspired against him, giving him undeserved demerits that nearly led to his dismissal.

But others came to his defense, inside and outside of the academy, allowing him to succeed. He retired as a lieutenant commander after 20 years of Navy service.

His story, and the story of the integration of the Academy are the subject of a new book, Breaking the Color Barrier, by historian Robert J. Schneller, Jr.

Books Featured In This Story

Breaking the Color Barrier

The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality

by Robert J., Jr. Schneller

Hardcover, 331 pages | purchase

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Title
Breaking the Color Barrier
Subtitle
The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality
Author
Robert J., Jr. Schneller

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