West Point cadet marching band on Broadway in a procession honoring police officers killed in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan in New York City in 2016. (Photo: iStock via theRoot)

Less than a year after Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams became the first black officer to command the United States Military Academy and two years after Simone Askew became the first black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets, West Point will graduate its largest ever class of black women later this month, when 32 women cross the stage.

The soon-to-be graduates recently participated in the traditional “Old Corps” photo shoot to memorialize their achievement.

Cadet Tiffany Welch-Baker, one of the graduates, told 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.”

Baker said she initially questioned her decision to leave active duty and attend West Point, but “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.”

West Point was founded in 1802 and did not graduate its first black cadet until 1877. It did not graduate a black cadet in the 20th century until Benjamin O. Davis in 1936. The first black Corps of Cadets captain was not named until 1979.

While it is lamentable that we are still marking these kinds of firsts in the 21st century, it is worth celebrating all this Black Girl Magic happening at West Point this year.

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