FEBRUARY 16, 1944
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.”