Robert John Schneller, Jr. Blue and Gold and Black: Racial Integration of the U.S. Naval Academy. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. x + 425 pp. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-60344-000-4.
Reviewed by Brian G. Shellum (Independent Scholar)
Published on H-War (July, 2008)
Race and the U.S. Naval Academy, 1945-1999
This book on the history of the integration of African Americans into the U.S. Naval Academy is exceedingly well researched and written. It proves an excellent follow-up to the author's first book, Breaking the Color Barrier (2005). Both provide a thorough treatment of a very important topic largely neglected by historians. This work is especially timely with the May 2008 dedication of a new field house at the Naval Academy in the name of the first black graduate of Annapolis, Wesley Brown, class of 1949.
Robert John Schneller Jr.'s book examines how the demands of civil rights activists for equal opportunity shaped the Naval Academy's evolution and culture. He explores the ways in which changes in the institution's policies and culture affected the lives of the black midshipmen, and vice versa. The author uses a tremendous amount of excellent original source material, both from the point of view of the individual and the institution. Schneller uses a biographical approach to telling the story of integration at Annapolis, using correspondence, questionnaires, memoirs, and oral histories to recount the experiences of the midshipmen. This works very well indeed.
The author breaks the book into three sections: "Official Neglect: Token Representation, 1945-1965"; "Racial Policy Resolution: African Americans Assimilate, 1965-1976"; and "Unparalleled Opportunity: African American Men and Women, 1976-1999." The organization works well because it gives the sections easily definable and logical periods. Each comprises chapters covering the academy's racial policies during the time period, background of the African American midshipmen who attended, and details of their years and experiences as plebes, upperclassmen, and officers.
Blue and Gold and Black is an absorbing account of how the U.S. Naval Academy struggled to deal with its racially intolerant past and ultimately succeeded in integrating the institution. It is also a fascinating story about how a few brave and dedicated black midshipmen fought from within the academy to shape its racial policies. Their sacrifices enabled later generations of African Americans to enjoy unparalleled opportunity at Annapolis.
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Brian G. Shellum. Review of Schneller, Robert John, Jr., Blue and Gold and Black: Racial Integration of the U.S. Naval Academy.
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