Lecture Topics

Special Topics

Book Club Topics

Museum Orientation Lectures

Exhibit Abstract

An Introduction to Super Stars
The History of The Navy’s Black Admirals

In 1971, Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. became the first African American promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral. Since that time, 48 other African Americans have reached this rank including Lillian Fishburne selected in 1998. Presently, there are 15 active duty Admirals and 34 retired.

Samuel L. Gravely
Born 1922, Richmond, VA
Promoted to Rear Admiral in 1971
Promoted to Vice Admiral in 1976

Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely was born in Richmond, VA in 1922, enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves in 1942, and was commissioned as an Ensign in 1944. In 1971, he was selected for promotion to Rear Admiral, becoming the first Black naval officer in the nation's history to earn this recognition. He was later promoted to Vice Admiral in the summer of 1976 on board the USS JOUETT, one of the Navy's most sophisticated guided missile cruisers and one of the ships he had previously Commanded.

Vice Admiral Gravely's awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal with one gold Star in lieu of a second award, Bronze Star Medal, and the Navy Commendation Medal.

These 49 Admirals exemplify the progress Blacks have made in the Navy, which until late 1940’s maintained strict segregation policies.

In 1940, there were 4,000 African-American enlisted sailors in the Navy. They were limited to serving as cooks. The first Black officers were commissioned in 1944 and were nicknamed “The Golden 13”.

In 1949, Wesley A. Brown, a Maryland native, became the first Black to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Several of the Admirals featured in this exhibit followed in his footsteps, and received their commissions from the Academy including:

  • Rear Admiral Lawrence C. Chambers, Class of 1952
  • Rear Admiral William E. Powell, Class of 1959
  • Admiral J. Paul Reason, Class of 1965
  • Rear Admiral Anthony J. Watson, Class of 1970
  • Vice Admiral Andy Winns, Class of 1978
  • Vice Admiral Melvin G. Williams, Class of 1978
  • Vice Admiral Derwood C. Curtis, Class of 1976
  • Rear Admiral Arthur J. Johnson, Class of 1979
  • Rear Admiral Victor G. Guillory, Class of 1978
  • Admiral Cecil D. Haney, Class of 1978
  • Rear Admiral Julius S. Caesar, Class of 1977
  • Vice Admiral Bruce E. Grooms, Class of 1980
  • Admiral Michelle J. Howard, Class of 1982
  • Rear Admiral Earl L. Gay, Class of 1980
  • Rear Admiral Charles K. Carodine, Class of 1982
  • Rear Admiral Jesse A. Wilson, Class of 1986


Lillian E. Fishburne
Born 1949,
Patuxent River, MD
Promoted to Rear Admiral in 1998

Commanding Officer of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station, Key West, Florida. Commander of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station in Wahiawa, Hawaii.

Rear Admiral Fishburne was promoted to Flag rank in February 1998, becoming the Navy's nineteenth African-American and the nation's first African-American woman to earn this recognition. Her numerous military awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit Medal.


Today, there are 78,000 enlisted African-American men and women and an additional 3,000 African-American officers serving in the Navy.

"The success of these admirals, along with achievements of all Black Navy Personnel, attests to an impressive record of perseverance. This is their story, a living lesson of personal triumph, and a source of national pride."




Barry C. Black
Born 1948, Baltimore, MD
Promoted to Rear Admiral in 1998

Barry Black was promoted to rank of Rear Admiral in February 1998 and became the Navy's twentieth African-American to reach this top leadership position. In August 2000, he was selected to serve ad the Chief of Chaplains responsible for the religious needs of the Navy's 384,000 Sailors and their families.

His numerous military decorations include the Legion of Merit Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards).

Exhibit Abstract

This introduction to the United States Navy’s Black admirals is accomplished using color portraits and bibliographical profiles highlighting their brilliant naval careers.

The forty-nine 24X30 inch handsomely framed pictures also show a color photograph of the aircraft the admiral flew or the ship they commanded.

The exhibit highlights the role Black Americans played in defending our nation and serves as a source of inspiration to all young people that the American dream, of hard work yielding great rewards, can still come true.

The exhibit is supported by:

• Dynamic documentary videos
• A color slide show
• Handouts for the audience including an exhibit guide and lists of related books and Web sites.


The size of each of the 49 framed portraits in the Navy Admirals exhibit, "Super Stars: The Navy's Black Admirals:

  • 24 inches high
  • 30 inches wide

Lecture Topics

• Vice Admiral Sam Gravely; The Navy’s First Black Admiral.

• Rear Admiral Barry Black; Called to Serve; The Navy’s First Black Chief of Chaplains.

• Rear Admiral Lillian Fishburne; Victory is Mine; The Navy’s First Black Woman Admiral.

• Rear Admiral Ben Hacker; The Golden Wings of Naval Aviation.

• Seaworthy Admirals: Distinguished Black Graduates of the U. S. Naval Academy.

• Admiral Michelle Howard; Leading Lady; The Navy's First 4-Star Admiral.


Michelle Howard
Promoted to 4-Star Admiral in 2014

Admiral Howard graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1982. She took command of USS Rushmore (LSD 47) on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy.

In 2014, she was promoted to 4-Star Admiral, the first woman in the U.S. Navy to attain this rank. She was also selected to serve in the U.S. Navy's second highest leadership position as the Vice Chief of Naval Operations.









Special Topics

• Wesley Brown; The First Black Graduate of the U S Naval Academy.

Book Club Topics for Wesley Brown include:

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

Blue & Gold and Black: Racial Integration of the U.S. Naval Academy


Book Club Topics

Commander Jackson shares his first-hand knowledge of some of the nation's most dynamic leaders when he facilitates discussions on books written by Black Navy Admirals.

From the Hood to The Hill: A Story of Overcoming by Barry C. Black, Retired Navy Admiral and Chaplain of the U.S. Senate

Trailblazer: The U.S. Navy's First Black Admiral by Sam Gravely Jr., Retired Navy Admiral, with historian Paul Stillwell

Navigating the Seven Seas: Leadership Lessons of the First African-American Father and Son to Serve at the Top in the U.S. Navy by Melvin G. Williams, Retired Navy Admiral


Museum Orientation Lectures

Commander Jackson provides an insider's perspective during his orientation lectures so visitors can get the most from their museum tours.

The "New Brigade" exhibit at the U.S. Naval Adademy Museum in Preble Hall, Annapolis, Maryland.

This exhibit profiles the lives of Midshipman Wesley Brown, Admirals Paul Reason and Michelle Howard, and astronaut and Marine Corps General Charles Bolden.

The "Tribute to African American Leadership in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps" at the Pentagon, Washington DC.

This exhibit features military trailblazers and Black Admiral and general officers.


Commander Jim Jackson U.S. Navy (Ret.) 1103 Riverboat Ct., Annapolis, MD 21409 410.279.5853