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Fri, 03.21.1856

Henry O. Flipper, Military Officer born

Henry O. Flipper

*This date marks the birth of Henry Ossian Flipper, the first Black man to graduate from West Point.

He came from a family of slaves, born in Thomasville, GA.  When the American Civil War broke out, his owner moved his property to Atlanta. Henry Flippers’ intelligence was noticeable while attending schools funded by the American Missionary Association. James Freeman of the Georgia House of Representatives recognized his abilities and appointed Flipper to West Point, where he arrived in 1873.

The daunting task of living alone as the only Black cadet began after his Black roommate was discharged. Henry Flipper did not complain; he concentrated on his studies, learned Spanish, majored in civil engineering, and graduated 15th in twenty-six class on June 15, 1877.

In 1880, lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper was posted at Fort Davis, Oklahoma. Less than a year into duty, he was accused of embezzlement, a charge made up because he had asserted his social equality. A Court Marshall followed, and he was cleared. Moving on, Flipper remained in the southwest, validating Spanish and Mexican land grants in the U.S. and translating the mining laws of Mexico into English. After the Spanish American War, he worked for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Henry Flipper retired to Atlanta and died in 1940.

To Become a Civil Engineer

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