June 18, 1942: Bernard W. Robinson Becomes the First African American Naval Officer

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June 18, 1942: Bernard W. Robinson becomes the 1st African American Naval officer commissioned in the US Naval Reserve.

Robinson’s commission marks one of many firsts for African Americans during WWII, despite unfavorable odds. African Americans were not only fighting for victory abroad, but also victory at home against racial prejudice. On the Home Front and the battlefronts, blacks encountered restrictions solely based on the color of their skin.

Robinson attended Harvard Medical School and became a prominent radiologist after the war. Dedicated to the care of veterans, Robinson served in the Veterans Administration Hospitals system for the remainder of his career, interrupted only by his re-enlistment in the Navy from 1953-55.

Robinson passed away suddenly in his Allen Park, Michigan home on August 23, 1972.

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