John H. Conyers

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John Henry Conyers of South Carolina was the first black admitted to the United States Naval Academy on 21 September 1872.[1]

Conyers was nominated by South Carolina congressman Robert B. Elliott. After his arrival, he was shunned and constantly and brutally harassed.[2] This included severe, ongoing hazing, including verbal torment, and beatings. His classmates even attempted to drown him.[2] In the fall of 1872, Conyers was marching when he was kicked and punched by several other Cadets, among them the Academy's boxing champion George Goodfellow.[2][3]

News of the incident and the constant hazing experienced by Conyers leaked to the newspapers, and a three-man board was convened to investigate the attacks. Goodfellow denied any wrongdoing and Conyers claimed he could not identify any of his attackers. The board nonetheless concluded that "His persecutors are left then without any excuse or palliation except the inadmissible one of prejudice." To give Conyers a fair chance at succeeding on his own merits, they believed strong measures should be taken. In the end Goodfellow and two others were dismissed from the Academy.[2] The abuse continued in more subtle forms however, and Conyers finally resigned in October 1873.[4]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Harley, Sharon (1996). The timetables of African-American history: a chronology of the most important people and events in African-American history. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780684815787. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Schneller, Robert John (2005). Breaking the color barrier: the U.S. Naval Academy's first Black midshipmen and the struggle for racial equality. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-4013-2. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Crane, Michael A. (2004). A fistful of thorns: Doc Holliday and Kate Elder 1880. Klamath Falls, OR: Boot Hill Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-9745914-0-7. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  4. ^ Clare, Rod (July 2005). "Review of Schneller, Robert J., Jr., Breaking the Color Barrier: The U.S. Naval Academy's First Black Midshipmen and the Struggle for Racial Equality". H-War, H-Net Reviews. Retrieved 27 May 2013.