Minute of History: Henry Flipper

Minute of History: Henry Flipper


Got a minute? I’m Pete Skirbunt, Defense Commissary Agency Historian with a Minute of History. In 1877, former slave Henry Flipper became the first African-American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. As a Second Lieutenant he soon became Quartermaster and Assistant Commissary of Subsistence at Fort Davis, TX. Ordering food for mess halls, issuing rations and selling commissary goods to soldiers at the post. Court-martialed for stealing commissary funds, he was found innocent of theft but was convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and was dishonorably discharged. Undaunted he became a businessman, newspaper editor, special agent for the justice department, translator for a senate sub-committee and Assistant Secretary of the Interior. In 1976, The Army had determined that racism had inspired and driven the court-martial and changed his discharge to honorable. In 1999, President Clinton cleared Flipper’s name by overturning President Chester Allen Arthur’s endorsement of the original verdict. With a Minute of History, I’m Pete Skirbunt, DeCA Historian.

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  1. 0:06 United States Military Academy USMA West Point Class of 1877 Cadet Henry Ossian Flipper Front Row Second Squad. 0:27 to 0:33 The illustration is of Second Lieutenant James Webster Smith (1850 to 1876) USMA West Point ex. class of 1874 court marital. The First Black cadet at West Point. For Six months Black Cadets James Webster Smith Henry Ossian Flipper and John Washington Williams were roommates at West Point. (pages 164 to 165 The Colored Cadet At West Point 1878 by Henry O. Flipper. James Webster Smith was Commissioned A Second Lieutenant US Army in 1997 by POTUS William Jefferson Clinton.

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