Breaking News
More () »

Navy turns to HBCUs in effort to increase diversity

The first Black officers were commissioned in 1944, yet nearly eight decades later, just 8.1 % of the officer corps is Black.

NORFOLK, Va. — The nation's first African-American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said, "With respect to diversity, I've got to make sure that we continue to make strides."

But, according to a 2019 Congressional Research Service report the military still has a long way to go.

The report says that 18.5% of the enlisted active duty force is African American, but when it comes to the officer corps, just 8.1% are Black.

The U.S. Navy Recruiting Outreach and Diversity unit has created a program to bolster relations with those at historically Black colleges and universities.

It is called the "Divine Nine" ambassador program, named after the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the nine sororities and fraternities founded by African American students.

Nineteen active-duty Navy officers and reservists have volunteered to attend events at HBCUs to better connect with "Divine Nine" members, students, faculty, administrators and alumni, to inform them about Navy career opportunities. 

The ambassadors include Naval Reserve Lieutenant and Surface Warfare Officer Shannon Davis, a 2013 graduate of Hampton University's ROTC program.

"We're all recognizing that this is something that's been long overdue," she said.

Davis hopes her experience serves as an inspiration to others.

"I'm actually very proud of how far I've come, and our main goal as the ambassadors is just to share our stories," she said.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Navy's first Black officers were 12 ensigns and one warrant officer who came to be known as "The Golden 13."

They were commissioned in March of 1944.

Before You Leave, Check This Out