July 28, 2005 Veterans History Project to Host Book Talk on Breaking the Color Barrier at the Naval Academy

Press Contact: Anneliesa Clump Behrend (202) 707-9822 | Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

Author Robert J. Schneller Jr. and Wesley Anthony Brown will discuss Schneller’s new book, “Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy’s First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality,” at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 10, in the Whittall Pavilion of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

In 1949 Midshipman Wesley Brown became the U.S. Naval Academy’s first African American graduate. “Breaking the Color Barrier” examines the black community’s efforts to integrate the academy, as well as what life in Annapolis was like for the first black midshipmen. The book talk is sponsored by the Library’s Veterans History Project. A book-signing follows the presentation.

Published in April, “Breaking the Color Barrier” examines the efforts taken by the black community, equal rights advocates and members of Congress to integrate the Navy officer corps and, specifically, the United States Naval Academy, beginning in the late 19th century. The book culminates with Brown’s graduation from the academy.

Brown, a resident of the District of Columbia, attended Dunbar High School before entering the academy in the summer of 1945. Armed with intelligence, social grace, self-discipline and critical support from family and friends, Brown, after four arduous years of training and academic challenges, became the first African American graduate of the Naval Academy on June 3, 1949.

Following his graduation, Brown joined the Civil Engineering Corps, rising to lieutenant commander before he retired from the Navy in July 1969. Brown has also served as chairman of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Service Academy Selection Committee.

Schneller, a government historian in the Naval Historical Center at the Washington Navy Yard, has spent 10 years researching, writing and publishing historic accounts of the integration of the United States Naval Academy.

The Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center is a nationwide volunteer effort to collect and preserve oral histories from America’s war veterans. The collection is housed at the Library of Congress. To date the archive has received more than 35,000 individual submissions. Those who are interested in participating are encouraged to e-mail the Veterans History Project at vohp@loc.gov or to call toll-free (888) 371-5848 to request a free project kit. For more information about the Veterans History Project, visit www.loc.gov/vets.


PR 05-161
ISSN 0731-3527