Profiles

A Proud History of Firsts

The U.S. Army values are instilled in Soldiers from day one: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. There are many Americans who built the foundation of their success on their Army experience. The following profiles include Black Americans who reflect these values and represent the best of the Army.

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Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd J. Austin III

Secretary of Defense, General

Lloyd J. Austin III


2021: First Black Secretary of Defense

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Secretary of Defense, General

Lloyd J. Austin III

Profile photo of Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd J. Austin III 2021: First Black Secretary of Defense

Lloyd J. Austin III is the 28th Secretary of Defense, sworn in on Jan. 22, 2021. Austin served 41 years in uniform, retiring as a four-star Army general after three years as commander of U.S. Central Command.

Austin was also the first Black Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and first Black commander of U.S. Central Command. President Barack Obama had nominated Austin as the 12th commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Dec. 6, 2012. Austin became the 33rd Vice Chief of Staff of the Army at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Jan. 31, 2012. Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, earned a Master of Arts degree in education from Auburn University and a master's degree in business management from Webster University.

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Austin sworn in as vice chief of staff .


Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd J. Austin III

2021: First Black Secretary of Defense

Lloyd J. Austin III is the 28th Secretary of Defense, sworn in on Jan. 22, 2021. Austin served 41 years in uniform, retiring as a four-star Army general after three years as commander of U.S. Central Command.

Austin was also the first Black Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and first Black commander of U.S. Central Command. President Barack Obama had nominated Austin as the 12th commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Dec. 6, 2012. Austin became the 33rd Vice Chief of Staff of the Army at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Jan. 31, 2012. Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, earned a Master of Arts degree in education from Auburn University and a master's degree in business management from Webster University.

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Austin sworn in as vice chief of staff .

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General Michael X. Garrett

General

Michael X. Garrett


2019: Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command, currently the highest ranking Black officer in the U.S. Army.

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General

Michael X. Garrett

Profile photo of General Michael X. Garrett 2019: Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command, currently the highest ranking Black officer in the U.S. Army.

Michael Xavier Garrett is the commanding general of United States Army Forces Command, located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. As commander of the U.S. Army's largest organization, he commands 215,000 active-duty soldiers and 190,000 members of the U.S. Army Reserve while providing training and readiness oversight of the Army National Guard. In total, the Forces Command team includes 745,000 soldiers and 96,000 civilians.

The son of an Army command sergeant major, Garrett has spent his entire life in and around the Army. A career infantryman, Garrett received his commission in 1984 upon graduating from Xavier University. Following his initial military training courses, including Ranger, Pathfinder and Jumpmaster, he served his formative years in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Over the course of 11 years, Garrett served in and wore the scroll of each of the regiment's three Ranger Battalions. Garrett commanded 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. He also activated and commanded the “Spartan Brigade,” 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Fort Richardson, Alaska, and deployed the unit to support Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006.

Beginning in 2013, Garrett spent six consecutive years focused on military operations in the Middle East, first as chief of staff, U.S. Central Command, and later as commanding general, U.S. Army Central and Coalition Forces Land Component Command. Garrett holds a bachelor's degree from Xavier University, and his military education includes U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and a Senior Service College Fellowship.


General Michael X. Garrett

2019: Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command, currently the highest ranking Black officer in the U.S. Army.

Michael Xavier Garrett is the commanding general of United States Army Forces Command, located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. As commander of the U.S. Army's largest organization, he commands 215,000 active-duty soldiers and 190,000 members of the U.S. Army Reserve while providing training and readiness oversight of the Army National Guard. In total, the Forces Command team includes 745,000 soldiers and 96,000 civilians.

The son of an Army command sergeant major, Garrett has spent his entire life in and around the Army. A career infantryman, Garrett received his commission in 1984 upon graduating from Xavier University. Following his initial military training courses, including Ranger, Pathfinder and Jumpmaster, he served his formative years in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Over the course of 11 years, Garrett served in and wore the scroll of each of the regiment's three Ranger Battalions. Garrett commanded 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. He also activated and commanded the “Spartan Brigade,” 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Fort Richardson, Alaska, and deployed the unit to support Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006.

Beginning in 2013, Garrett spent six consecutive years focused on military operations in the Middle East, first as chief of staff, U.S. Central Command, and later as commanding general, U.S. Army Central and Coalition Forces Land Component Command. Garrett holds a bachelor's degree from Xavier University, and his military education includes U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and a Senior Service College Fellowship.

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Cadet Simone Askew

Cadet

Simone Askew


2017: The first African-American woman to achieve the highest position in the cadet chain of command

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Cadet

Simone Askew

Profile photo of Cadet Simone Askew 2017: The first African-American woman to achieve the highest position in the cadet chain of command

As First Captain, Askew is responsible for the overall performance of the approximately 4,400-member Corps of Cadets. Her duties also include implementing a class agenda and acting as a liaison between the Corps and the administration.

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Simone Askew selected as First Captain .


Cadet Simone Askew

2017: The first African-American woman to achieve the highest position in the cadet chain of command

As First Captain, Askew is responsible for the overall performance of the approximately 4,400-member Corps of Cadets. Her duties also include implementing a class agenda and acting as a liaison between the Corps and the administration.

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Simone Askew selected as First Captain .

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Lieutenant General Nadja West

Lieutenant General

Nadja West


2016: First Black female lieutenant general and the highest-ranking woman to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy

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Lieutenant General

Nadja West

Profile photo of Lieutenant General Nadja West 2016: First Black female lieutenant general and the highest-ranking woman to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy

West became the first Black surgeon general of the U.S. Army, Dec. 11, 2015. In 2013, West was also the first Black female major general of the Army's active component, and was Army Medicine's first African-American female two-star general. West is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. She attended the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where she earned a Doctorate of Medicine degree.

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West sworn in as Army surgeon general .


Lieutenant General Nadja West

2016: First Black female lieutenant general and the highest-ranking woman to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy

West became the first Black surgeon general of the U.S. Army, Dec. 11, 2015. In 2013, West was also the first Black female major general of the Army's active component, and was Army Medicine's first African-American female two-star general. West is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. She attended the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where she earned a Doctorate of Medicine degree.

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West sworn in as Army surgeon general .

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Major General Marcia M. Anderson

Major General

Marcia M. Anderson


2011: The Army's first Black female reserve officer to obtain the rank of major general

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Major General

Marcia M. Anderson

Profile photo of Major General Marcia M. Anderson 2011: The Army's first Black female reserve officer to obtain the rank of major general

Anderson was promoted during a ceremony at Fort Knox, Kentucky on October 1, 2011. As a citizen-Soldier, Anderson is employed by the United States Courts, where she serves as the clerk of Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Wisconsin, located in Madison, Wisconsin.

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HRC deputy becomes Army's first female African-American major general .


Major General Marcia M. Anderson

2011: The Army's first Black female reserve officer to obtain the rank of major general

Anderson was promoted during a ceremony at Fort Knox, Kentucky on October 1, 2011. As a citizen-Soldier, Anderson is employed by the United States Courts, where she serves as the clerk of Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Wisconsin, located in Madison, Wisconsin.

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HRC deputy becomes Army's first female African-American major general .

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Command Sergeant Major Evelyn Hollis

Command Sergeant Major

Evelyn Hollis


2004: First Black female command sergeant major of a combat arms unit

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Command Sergeant Major

Evelyn Hollis

Profile photo of Command Sergeant Major Evelyn Hollis 2004: First Black female command sergeant major of a combat arms unit

Hollis entered the Army during a time of great debate over whether women should serve in combat units in 1979. In the 1990s, numerous opportunities began opening for women to serve in combat arms units. During this time, she was offered the opportunity to advance her career by switching her career field to air defense artillery. Since then, Hollis had moved through the ranks and received the Bronze Star for her service during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In April 2004, she made history when she became the first female command sergeant major of a combat arms unit by assuming command of the 1st Battalion, 31st Air Defense Artillery Command.


Command Sergeant Major Evelyn Hollis

2004: First Black female command sergeant major of a combat arms unit

Hollis entered the Army during a time of great debate over whether women should serve in combat units in 1979. In the 1990s, numerous opportunities began opening for women to serve in combat arms units. During this time, she was offered the opportunity to advance her career by switching her career field to air defense artillery. Since then, Hollis had moved through the ranks and received the Bronze Star for her service during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In April 2004, she made history when she became the first female command sergeant major of a combat arms unit by assuming command of the 1st Battalion, 31st Air Defense Artillery Command.

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Command Sergeant Major Michele S. Jones

Command Sergeant Major

Michele S. Jones


2003: First Black woman command sergeant major of the Army Reserve

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Command Sergeant Major

Michele S. Jones

Profile photo of Command Sergeant Major Michele S. Jones 2003: First Black woman command sergeant major of the Army Reserve

Jones was selected by Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly to become the ninth command sergeant major of the Army Reserve in September 2003. As a result, she became the first woman in U.S. Army's history to serve as a division command sergeant major. Jones is also the first woman to be selected as the top noncommissioned officer in the Army Reserve, as well as the first to be chosen as the senior noncommissioned officer in any of the Army's components.


Command Sergeant Major Michele S. Jones

2003: First Black woman command sergeant major of the Army Reserve

Jones was selected by Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly to become the ninth command sergeant major of the Army Reserve in September 2003. As a result, she became the first woman in U.S. Army's history to serve as a division command sergeant major. Jones is also the first woman to be selected as the top noncommissioned officer in the Army Reserve, as well as the first to be chosen as the senior noncommissioned officer in any of the Army's components.

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Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

Secretary of State

Colin L. Powell


1989: First Black Secretary of State, First Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

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Secretary of State

Colin L. Powell

Profile photo of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell 1989: First Black Secretary of State, First Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Powell made history by becoming the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the highest military position in the Department of Defense, Oct. 1, 1989, to Sept. 30, 1993. At age 52, he became the youngest officer to serve in this position. Powell made history again when he became the first appointed Black secretary of state, Jan. 20, 2001.


Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

1989: First Black Secretary of State, First Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Powell made history by becoming the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the highest military position in the Department of Defense, Oct. 1, 1989, to Sept. 30, 1993. At age 52, he became the youngest officer to serve in this position. Powell made history again when he became the first appointed Black secretary of state, Jan. 20, 2001.

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Major General Fred A. Gorden

Major General

Fred A. Gorden


1987: First Black commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy

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Major General

Fred A. Gorden

Profile photo of Major General Fred A. Gorden 1987: First Black commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy

Gorden made history becoming the 61st commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He also graduated from the academy with a degree in engineering and has a master's degree in Spanish from Middlebury College. Gorden served 34 years in the U.S. Army.


Major General Fred A. Gorden

1987: First Black commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy

Gorden made history becoming the 61st commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He also graduated from the academy with a degree in engineering and has a master's degree in Spanish from Middlebury College. Gorden served 34 years in the U.S. Army.

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General Roscoe Robinson Jr.

General

Roscoe Robinson Jr.


1982: First Black four-star general

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General

Roscoe Robinson Jr.

Profile photo of General Roscoe Robinson Jr. 1982: First Black four-star general

Robinson attended St. Louis University for only a year and then transferred to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, entering the Class of 1951 and earning a master's degree in international relations at the University of Pittsburgh. Robinson served 34 years in the U.S. Army.


General Roscoe Robinson Jr.

1982: First Black four-star general

Robinson attended St. Louis University for only a year and then transferred to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, entering the Class of 1951 and earning a master's degree in international relations at the University of Pittsburgh. Robinson served 34 years in the U.S. Army.

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General Vincent K. Brooks

General

Vincent K. Brooks


1980: First Black U.S. Military Academy cadet brigade commander or "First Captain"

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General

Vincent K. Brooks

Profile photo of General Vincent K. Brooks 1980: First Black U.S. Military Academy cadet brigade commander or "First Captain"

Brooks achieved the top-ranking position for a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, he earned a Master of Military Art and Science from the School of Advanced Military Studies at Army Command and General Staff College and an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the New England School of Law in Boston. He also served as a National Security Fellow at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.


General Vincent K. Brooks

1980: First Black U.S. Military Academy cadet brigade commander or "First Captain"

Brooks achieved the top-ranking position for a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, he earned a Master of Military Art and Science from the School of Advanced Military Studies at Army Command and General Staff College and an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the New England School of Law in Boston. He also served as a National Security Fellow at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown

Brigadier General

Hazel Johnson-Brown


1979: First Black chief of the Army Corps and first Black female brigadier general

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Brigadier General

Hazel Johnson-Brown

Profile photo of Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown 1979: First Black chief of the Army Corps and first Black female brigadier general

Johnson-Brown was an operating room nurse, who graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing and joined the U.S. Army in 1955. She thought it would be an opportunity that would allow her to explore the world and hone her nursing skills. She had no idea she would become a part of military history. Timing had much to do with Johnson-Brown's success in the military, as she entered the Army shortly after President Harry S. Truman banned segregation and discrimination in the armed services. Following her retirement, Johnson-Brown enjoyed a distinguished second career in academia. She served as professor of nursing at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and finally at George Mason University in Virginia. At George Mason University, she was instrumental in founding the Center for Health Policy, designed to educate and involve nurses in health policy and policy design. Johnson-Brown retired from teaching in 1997.

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Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown

1979: First Black chief of the Army Corps and first Black female brigadier general

Johnson-Brown was an operating room nurse, who graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing and joined the U.S. Army in 1955. She thought it would be an opportunity that would allow her to explore the world and hone her nursing skills. She had no idea she would become a part of military history. Timing had much to do with Johnson-Brown's success in the military, as she entered the Army shortly after President Harry S. Truman banned segregation and discrimination in the armed services. Following her retirement, Johnson-Brown enjoyed a distinguished second career in academia. She served as professor of nursing at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and finally at George Mason University in Virginia. At George Mason University, she was instrumental in founding the Center for Health Policy, designed to educate and involve nurses in health policy and policy design. Johnson-Brown retired from teaching in 1997.

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Secretary of the Army Clifford L. Alexander Jr.

Secretary of the Army

Clifford L. Alexander Jr.


1977: First black secretary of the Army

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Secretary of the Army

Clifford L. Alexander Jr.

Profile photo of Secretary of the Army Clifford L. Alexander Jr. 1977: First black secretary of the Army

Alexander became the 13th secretary of the Army, Feb. 11, 1977, appointed by President Jimmy Carter. He graduated cum laude from Harvard College and Yale Law School and served in the National Guard.


Secretary of the Army Clifford L. Alexander Jr.

1977: First black secretary of the Army

Alexander became the 13th secretary of the Army, Feb. 11, 1977, appointed by President Jimmy Carter. He graduated cum laude from Harvard College and Yale Law School and served in the National Guard.

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Specialist Fred Moore

Specialist

Fred Moore


1961: First Black Tomb Sentinel of the Army

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Specialist

Fred Moore

Profile photo of Specialist Fred Moore 1961: First Black Tomb Sentinel of the Army

Moore entered the U.S. Army in 1959, during the civil rights movement. He had three older brothers who had been in the service and advised him to keep his mouth shut and not to volunteer for anything. Moore volunteered for service in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard). Moore's greatest wish is that Soldiers today not dwell on his monumental accomplishment but find an inner drive in themselves.

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First African-American Tomb Guard recalls journey .


Specialist Fred Moore

1961: First Black Tomb Sentinel of the Army

Moore entered the U.S. Army in 1959, during the civil rights movement. He had three older brothers who had been in the service and advised him to keep his mouth shut and not to volunteer for anything. Moore volunteered for service in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard). Moore's greatest wish is that Soldiers today not dwell on his monumental accomplishment but find an inner drive in themselves.

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First African-American Tomb Guard recalls journey .

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Lieutenant Colonel Charity Adams Earley

Lieutenant Colonel

Charity Adams Earley


1944: First African-American woman to be an officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Commanding officer of 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.

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Lieutenant Colonel

Charity Adams Earley

Profile photo of Lieutenant Colonel Charity Adams Earley 1944: First African-American woman to be an officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Commanding officer of 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.

Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley served as the highest-ranking Black woman officer during World War II. In December 1944, then-Maj. Earley deployed to Europe leading the first Black Women's Auxiliary Corps unit to serve overseas. The Army gave Earley command of the 6888th Central Postal Battalion. Stationed in Birmingham, England, they organized and sorted mail for delivery to U.S. Soldiers in the European Theatre. Despite segregated living conditions, her troops diligently worked around the clock seven days a week, working in three shifts, to ensure the delivery of millions of letters. Given six months to clear months of backlogged mail, the unit completed the job in half the time.

Earley served in Europe until late 1945. For her work in Europe with the 6668th, Earley received a promotion to lieutenant colonel, the highest possible rank for a Soldier in the WAC. After her service, she completed her a master’s degree in vocational psychology at Ohio State University. She devoted the rest of her life to education and activism, serving as a dean at Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College (now Tennessee State University), Georgia State University, and on many community business and organization boards. Additionally, in 1982, she founded the Black Leadership Development Program that focused on teaching young African Americans to be leaders in their communities.

She died in 2002 in Dayton, Ohio. The National Postal Museum, National Women’s History Museum, Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, Smithsonian Institute, South Carolina Black Hall of Fame, and many other organizations have recognized her dedicated service and work on promoting opportunities for Black Americans.

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National Museum of the United States Army — Charity Adams Earley .


Lieutenant Colonel Charity Adams Earley

1944: First African-American woman to be an officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Commanding officer of 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.

Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley served as the highest-ranking Black woman officer during World War II. In December 1944, then-Maj. Earley deployed to Europe leading the first Black Women's Auxiliary Corps unit to serve overseas. The Army gave Earley command of the 6888th Central Postal Battalion. Stationed in Birmingham, England, they organized and sorted mail for delivery to U.S. Soldiers in the European Theatre. Despite segregated living conditions, her troops diligently worked around the clock seven days a week, working in three shifts, to ensure the delivery of millions of letters. Given six months to clear months of backlogged mail, the unit completed the job in half the time.

Earley served in Europe until late 1945. For her work in Europe with the 6668th, Earley received a promotion to lieutenant colonel, the highest possible rank for a Soldier in the WAC. After her service, she completed her a master’s degree in vocational psychology at Ohio State University. She devoted the rest of her life to education and activism, serving as a dean at Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College (now Tennessee State University), Georgia State University, and on many community business and organization boards. Additionally, in 1982, she founded the Black Leadership Development Program that focused on teaching young African Americans to be leaders in their communities.

She died in 2002 in Dayton, Ohio. The National Postal Museum, National Women’s History Museum, Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, Smithsonian Institute, South Carolina Black Hall of Fame, and many other organizations have recognized her dedicated service and work on promoting opportunities for Black Americans.

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National Museum of the United States Army — Charity Adams Earley .

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Major Della H. Raney

Major

Della H. Raney


1942: First Black chief nurse commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corp

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Major

Della H. Raney

Profile photo of Major Della H. Raney 1942: First Black chief nurse commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corp

Raney was born in Suffolk, Virgina on Jan. 10, 1912. A graduate of the Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing in Durham, North Carolina. Approximately 500 Black nurses served in the ANC during World War II. Raney was promoted to captain in 1945. After the war, she was assigned to head of the nursing staff at the station hospital at Camp Beale, California. Raney retired in 1978 as a major.

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Major Della H. Raney

1942: First Black chief nurse commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corp

Raney was born in Suffolk, Virgina on Jan. 10, 1912. A graduate of the Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing in Durham, North Carolina. Approximately 500 Black nurses served in the ANC during World War II. Raney was promoted to captain in 1945. After the war, she was assigned to head of the nursing staff at the station hospital at Camp Beale, California. Raney retired in 1978 as a major.

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General Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

General

Benjamin O. Davis Sr.


1940: First Black general officer in the Army and the U.S. Armed Forces

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General

Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

Profile photo of General Benjamin O. Davis Sr. 1940: First Black general officer in the Army and the U.S. Armed Forces

Davis entered the service during the war with Spain as a temporary first lieutenant of the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry. In 1899, he was discharged from the service. In June of the same year, he enlisted again, this time as a private in the 9th Cavalry. He then served as corporal and squadron sergeant major, and on Feb. 2, 1901, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of Cavalry. Davis served as an inspector for the Inspector General and later as a special investigator for the Secretary of War's Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policies. His investigations of discrimination and racial disturbances brought to light the problems of a racially closed military.

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Center of Military History - Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr.


General Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

1940: First Black general officer in the Army and the U.S. Armed Forces

Davis entered the service during the war with Spain as a temporary first lieutenant of the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry. In 1899, he was discharged from the service. In June of the same year, he enlisted again, this time as a private in the 9th Cavalry. He then served as corporal and squadron sergeant major, and on Feb. 2, 1901, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of Cavalry. Davis served as an inspector for the Inspector General and later as a special investigator for the Secretary of War's Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policies. His investigations of discrimination and racial disturbances brought to light the problems of a racially closed military.

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Center of Military History - Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr.

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Second Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper

Second Lieutenant

Henry Ossian Flipper


1877: First Black cadet to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy

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Second Lieutenant

Henry Ossian Flipper

Profile photo of Second Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper 1877: First Black cadet to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy

Flipper was the first Black American to be commissioned in the Army, or any other branch of the U.S. military and became the first Black American officer to command Black Soldiers when he assumed command of Troop A, 10th Cavalry Regiment, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Before Flipper took command, all Black units were commanded by white officers.

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Center of Military History - Henry Ossian Flipper


Second Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper

1877: First Black cadet to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy

Flipper was the first Black American to be commissioned in the Army, or any other branch of the U.S. military and became the first Black American officer to command Black Soldiers when he assumed command of Troop A, 10th Cavalry Regiment, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Before Flipper took command, all Black units were commanded by white officers.

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Center of Military History - Henry Ossian Flipper

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Sergeant William H. Carney

Sergeant

William H. Carney


1863: First Black Medal of Honor recipient

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Sergeant

William H. Carney

Profile photo of Sergeant William H. Carney 1863: First Black Medal of Honor recipient

Carney was attached to the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. In July 1863, Carney found himself in the fierce Battle of Fort Wagner. After being wounded, Carney saw that the color bearer had been shot down a few feet away. Carney summoned all his strength to retrieve the fallen colors and continued the charge. During the charge, Carney was shot several more times, yet he kept the colors flying high. Once delivering the flag back to his regiment, he shouted "The Old Flag never touched the ground!"

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Meet Sgt. William Carney - The first African-American Medal of Honor recipient


Sergeant William H. Carney

1863: First Black Medal of Honor recipient

Carney was attached to the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. In July 1863, Carney found himself in the fierce Battle of Fort Wagner. After being wounded, Carney saw that the color bearer had been shot down a few feet away. Carney summoned all his strength to retrieve the fallen colors and continued the charge. During the charge, Carney was shot several more times, yet he kept the colors flying high. Once delivering the flag back to his regiment, he shouted "The Old Flag never touched the ground!"

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Private Cathay Williams

Private

Cathay Williams


1866: First Black woman to enlist in the Army

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Private

Cathay Williams

Profile photo of Private Cathay Williams 1866: First Black woman to enlist in the Army

Williams enlisted in the Army using the name William Cathay, Nov. 15, 1866. She informed her recruiting officer that she was a 22-year-old cook. He described her as 5' 9", with black eyes, black hair and a black complexion. An Army surgeon examined Cathay and determined the recruit was fit for duty, thus sealing her fate in history as the first documented Black woman to enlist in the Army even though U.S. Army regulations forbade the enlistment of women. She was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry and traveled throughout the West with her unit.

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Private Cathay Williams

1866: First Black woman to enlist in the Army

Williams enlisted in the Army using the name William Cathay, Nov. 15, 1866. She informed her recruiting officer that she was a 22-year-old cook. He described her as 5' 9", with black eyes, black hair and a black complexion. An Army surgeon examined Cathay and determined the recruit was fit for duty, thus sealing her fate in history as the first documented Black woman to enlist in the Army even though U.S. Army regulations forbade the enlistment of women. She was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry and traveled throughout the West with her unit.

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RELATED VIDEOS

"Striving for Excellence"

Pursuing excellence has always been the goal of Capt. Benjamin Spencer, an appellate attorney for the U.S. Army Reserve. Through his pursuit, he became the first Black dean of the William and Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Throughout his life, Spencer has strived to do his best in all things, from raising his children and loving his wife to serving his country in the U.S. Army Reserve. Spencer tells his story on how this pursuit has shaped his life.

Credit: U.S. Army video by Spc. Maria Elena Casneiro, Calvin Reimold and Master Sgt. Michel Sauret