African American women who made U.S. military history

Marcekite J. Harris

Marcekite J. Harris

Whether it’s defending our country on the front lines or providing support to U.S. soldiers and civilian employees, African Amer-ican women have made significant accomplish-ments in the Army.

Women’s Memorial compiled a list of trailblazers that helped paved the way for some of today’s Army leaders.

In March 1948, 1st Lt. Nancy C. Leftenant became the first Black woman to become a member of the Regular Army Nurse Corps after joining the Reserve Corps in February 1945.

In 1951, Edwina Martin of Danville, Virginia; Fannie Jean Cotton of Jackson, Michigan; and Evelyn M. Brown of Shreveport, Louisiana were the first three Black women commissioned as officers (second lieutenants) in the Air Force. All three graduated from the Air Force Officer Candidate School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

In 1964, Margaret E. Bailey, Army Nurse Corps, was the first nurse to be promoted to lieutenant colonel.

In 1967, Capt. Clara Adams-Ender became the first female in the U.S. Army to qualify for and be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge.

In 1969, Capt. Diane Lindsay, Army Nurse Corps, was the first Black nurse to receive the Soldier’s Medal for Heroism.

In 1970, Lt. Col. Margaret E. Bailey, Army Nurse Corps, became the first Black nurse to hold the rank of colonel.

In 1972, Mildred C. Kelly became the first Black female sergeant major in the U.S. Army.

In 1974, S.Sgt. Joyce B. Malone became the first Black woman to earn airborne wings in the U.S. Army Reserves.

In 1976, Lt. Col. Clara Adams-Ender became the first woman in the U.S. Army to earn the Master of Military Art and Science degree from the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

In 1979, Brigadier General Hazel W. Johnson-Brown became the first Black woman general officer and the first Black chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

In 1987, Irene Trowell-Harris became the first Black female general officer in the National Guard.

In 1995, Brig. Gen. Marcelite Harris, USAF, was promoted to major general, the first Black woman to attain this rank.

In 1997, U.S. Army Sgt. Danyell Wilson became the first Black woman to earn the prestigious job of guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.