West Point, America’s premier military college, which didn’t graduate its first black cadet until Reconstruction in 1877, now has its first black superintendent.
For the first time in its 216-year history, Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, who has held high-ranking posts in Europe and Asia, will become the first black officer to command West Point. He will take over from Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. who is retiring after more than 40 years in the Army, also serving five years as West Point’s superintendent.
William’s appointment, according to the Associated Press, comes less than a year after cadet and Rhodes Scholar, Simone Askew, a black woman from Fairfax, Virginia, was selected as first captain of the Corps of Cadets last summer and graduated in May.
A 1983 graduate of the military college and native of Alexandria, Williams has served first, as deputy chief of staff for the Army in Europe and deputy commanding general for support for the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea. Recently, he was the commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command in Turkey.
Founded in 1802 along the west bank of the Hudson River 50 miles north of New York, West Point didn’t graduate its first black cadet until 1877. Throughout the 20th century, the military college didn’t graduate another black cadet until Benjamin O. Davis Jr. arrived there in 1932. During his stay, Davis ate alone, roomed alone, and was shunned by fellow cadets because he was black. After his graduation in 1936, he would go on to command the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, retiring as an Air Force general in 1970. West Point’s newest barracks, per AP, was named after Davis.
For the past couple of years, the U.S. has increasingly shifted its focus on diversifying its ranks, with policies that emphasized inclusion, and marketing campaigns that targeted underrepresented communities. Of the 1,200 incoming members of West Point’s class of 2020, 186 are African Americans.