© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Nation & World

Wesley Brown, Naval Academy Pioneer

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

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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.