The US Military Academy at West Point is set to see a record number of black women graduate this spring. The group of 34 female African American graduates is the largest in history according to the prestigious military academy, following last year’s 27.
The class of 2019 will also include 19 Hispanic women, the largest number so far.
Since the first class of women graduated in 1980, there have been 5,000 female cadets, according to a West Point spokesman, Frank DeMaro. In the beginning it wasn’t easy for them.
“As with anything that is new, there is sometimes hesitation and reluctance to change,” Brig Gen Anne F Macdonald, a member of that class, has said. “Unfortunately, there was animosity toward us. Really, the reaction from the men ran the gamut: some were curious, some ignored us, some were helpful and some were hostile and difficult.”
This year’s historically diverse class comes two years after Simone Askew became the first African American woman to be appointed to First Capt at West Point, according to the website Because of Them We Can.
“My hope when young black girls see these photos is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability and fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with,” Tiffany Welch-Baker, a graduating cadet, told the site of her experiencing enlisting in the academy.
“In just a short while I met so many cadets that looked like me, and that offered me some comfort. I have been fortunate to have my sisters in arms, we have been fortunate to have each other.”
Mike Pence will address the class of more than 950 at the graduation ceremony on 25 May.