FEBRUARY 16, 1944

The Golden Thirteen were 13 enlisted Sailors who became the first African-American commissioned and warrant officers in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Credit: Source: Naval History and Heritage Command

The U.S. Navy began training for its first Black officers. Sixteen officer candidates began their work at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. All 16 passed the course, but the Navy only commissioned 13. They overcame racism and became known as “the Golden 13” for their excellence, paving the way for President Harry Truman to desegregate the military four years later. 

In Paul Stillwell’s book on the men, Gen. Colin Powell wrote that these men understood that “history had dealt them a stern obligation. They realized that in their hands rested the chance to help open the blind moral eye that America had turned on the question of race.”

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.