Academy Graduates First African American Student – Today in History: June 8
June 8, 2020 • Education, New London
Ensign Merle J. Smith, Jr.

Ensign Merle J. Smith, Jr. (left), Coast Guard Academy graduation, 1966
- United States Coast Guard

On June 8, 1966, the US Coast Guard Academy in New London graduated the first African American student, Ensign Merle James Smith, Jr. Smith received a Bachelor of Science degree as part of a class of 113 cadets. The Coast Guard Academy began in 1876 on the topsail schooner Dobbin and moved to its present location in New London, Connecticut, in 1932. African American students were not enrolled in the academy until the 1950s.

Learn More


“US Coast Guard Museum,” 2016. Link.

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