Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality
by Robert J. Schneller, Jr.
Only five black men were admitted to the United States Naval Academy between Reconstruction and the beginning of World War II. None graduated, and all were deeply scarred by intense racial discrimination, ranging from brutal hazing incidents to the institutionalized racist policies of the Academy iteself.
This book examines the black community's efforts to integrate the Naval Academy, as well as the experiences that black midshipmen encountered at Annapolis. Historian Robert J. Schneller analyzes how the Academy responded to demands for integration from black and white civilians, civil rights activists, and politicians, as well as what life at the Academy was like for black midshipmen and the encounters they had with their white classmates.
In 1949, Midshipman Wesley Brown achieved what seemed to be the impossible; he became the first black graduate of the Academy. Armed with intelligence, social grace, athleticism, self-discipline, and an immutable pluck, as well as critical support from family and friends, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, and the Executive Department, Brown was able to confront and ultimately shatter the Academy's tradition of systemactic racial discrimination.
Based on the Navy's documentary records and on personal interviews with scores of midshipmen and naval officers, "Breaking the Color Barrier" sheds light on the Academy's first step in transforming itself from a racist institution to one that today ranks equal opportunity among its fundamental tenets.
Blue & Gold and Black: Racial Integration of the U.S. Naval Academy
by Robert J. Schneller Jr. (Photo obtained from Civil War Navy 150 Blog)
During the twentieth century, the U.S. Naval Academy evolved from a racist institution to one that ranked equal opportunity among its fundamental tenets. This transformation was not without its social cost, however, and black midshipmen bore the brunt of it.
"Blue & Gold and Black" is the history of integration of African Americans into the Naval Academy. The book examines how civil rights advocates' demands for equal opportunity shaped the Naval Academy's evolution. Author Robert J. Schneller Jr. analyzes how changes in the Academy's policies and culture affected the lives of black midshipmen, as well as how black midshipmen effected change in the Academy's policies and culture.
Most institutional history is written from the top down, while most social history is written from the bottom up. Based on the documentary record as well as on the memories of hundreds of midshipmen and naval officers, Blue & Gold and Black includes both perspectives. By examining both the institution and the individual, a much more accurate picture emerges of how racial integration occurred at the Naval Academy.
Schneller takes a biographical approach to social history. Through written correspondence, responses to questionnaires, memoirs, and oral histories, African American midshipmen recount their experiences in their own words. Rather than setting adrift their humanity and individuality in oceans of statistics, Schneller uses their first-hand recollections to provide insights into the Academy's culture that cannot be gained from official records. Covering the Jim Crow era, the civil rights movement, and the empowerment of African Americans from the late 1960s through the end of the twentieth century, Blue & Gold and Black traces the transformation of an institution that produces men and women who lead not only the Navy, but also the nation.
• The Navy’s Black Admirals
• NASA’s Black Astronauts
• Blacks in Aviation