WASHINGTON (NNS) -- As announced by NAVADMIN 009/13 released Jan. 16, the Navy joins the nation in celebrating the vibrant history and culture of African American and Black Sailors during African American/Black History Month throughout the month of February.
Established in 1926 as Negro History Week, President Gerald R. Ford expanded the celebration in 1976 to include the entire month of February.
This year Navy commands are encouraged to celebrate and reflect on the theme, "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington."
African American Sailors have a legacy of honorable service in every major armed conflict since the Revolutionary War. African Americans continue to serve with distinction, now comprising more than 17 percent of the active duty Navy total force end-strength.
Striving for equality at home and blazing a trail for future African American Sailors, Wesley A. Brown became the first African American graduate of the United States Naval Academy in 1949, joining the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps and retiring at the rank of lieutenant commander. He died May 22, 2012 after a distinguished career both in the Navy and in the civilian workforce.
Edna Young, the first African American woman to enlist in the regular Navy and later the first African American woman to achieve the rank of chief petty officer also died in 2012. Young was a World War II veteran who joined the Navy after the passage of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act July 7, 1948.
In 2012, Vice Adm. Michelle Janine Howard became the first African-American woman to receive a third star in flag rank within the Department of Defense when she was promoted Aug. 24. Howard is currently serving as deputy commander for U.S. Fleet Forces Command. This was not Howard's first time in the Navy history books, however. In 1999, she became the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy when she took command of USS Rushmore (LSD 47).
Immediately following this year's celebration of African American/Black History Month, Force Master Chief April Beldo, currently the Naval Education and Training Command Force Master Chief, will make history as the Navy's first female African American Fleet Master Chief. Beldo will become the Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education (MPT&E) Fleet Master Chief in March 2013.
Sailors and their commands are encouraged to use this month to celebrate and recognize the exceptional and distinctive contributions and the unique histories and cultures that our African American shipmates bring to our Navy. More information on the many milestones achieved by African American Sailors and the history of the African American Navy experience can be found at the Naval History and Heritage Command at http://www.history.navy.mil/special%20highlights/africanAmerican/African-hist.htm
A full-color brochure on the history of African Americans in the United States Navy is also available for download through the Naval History and Heritage Command link.
A complete educational presentation, including a downloadable educational poster on African American/Black History month can be requested from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on Navy diversity events, including the observance of African American/Black History Month, is available on the Navy Office of Diversity and Inclusion calendar at http://www.public.navy.mil/BUPERS-NPC/SUPPORT/DIVERSITY/Pages/DiversityObservances.aspx.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Office of Diversity and Inclusion, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp-diversity/.