March 21

Henry O. Flipper

March 21, 1856 - Thomasville

A man born a slave in Georgia was the first African-American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Henry Ossian Flipper was born in Thomasville in 1856. After the Civil War, Henry graduated from West Point in 1877 and joined the famed Buffalo Soldiers, the 10th Cavalry Regiment. At Fort Davis in Texas, Flipper’s commanding officer accused him of embezzlement; he was acquitted at his court martial but convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and dismissed from the Army.

Flipper worked all of his life to clear his name, insisting he was court-martialed because of racism. After his death in 1940, his family continued the fight. In 1976, the Army overturned his court martial and granted him an honorable discharge. President Bill Clinton granted Flipper a full pardon in 1999.

West Point now presents an award in his honor to the graduate who succeeded in the face of great difficulties. The first black West Point graduate was born enslaved in Georgia on March 21, 1856, Today in Georgia History.