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With the changes instituted on December 17, 1970, by Admiral E. Zumwalt, Jr. with Z-Gram #66, the U.S. Navy was focused on equal opportunity with no artificial barriers of race, color, or religion.  Earlier that June, Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate Carl M. Brashear, who graduated from the Deep-Sea Diving School at the Washington Navy Yard, became the frist African American Master Diver.   In July 1971, Captain Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., was promoted to Rear Admiral and became the first African American to achieve flag rank.   Setting precedence a decade earlier, Gravely was also the first African American to command a U.S. Navy ship, USS Falgout (DER-324) in 1962.   For African American women displayed, Jill E. Brown was the first African American woman to qualify for training as a naval aviator in 1974 and Joan C. Bynum became the first African American woman to advance to the rank of Captain in 1978. 

Other resources:

Downloadable African American Pamphlet

NHHC African American Experience

Image:  428-GX-USN-118932:  Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate and Master Chief Diver Carl M. Brashear, assists another diver, April 1971.  Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.