Naval War College grad pays tribute to African-American admirals in new publication

The first African American U.S. Navy officers. Photographed 17 March 1944. Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

During and after his time spent at U.S. Naval War College (NWC), Lt. Cmdr. Robert Crosby conducted an extensive study researching, documenting and collecting technical and professional accomplishments of African-American admirals.

His efforts have resulted in a publication titled, “Inspiring Innovation,” published by the NWC Press.

Crosby’s objective for the publication was to document the innovative contributions of those officers who attained a flag rank, beginning with Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr., the first African-American to attain flag rank the U.S. Navy.

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Having entered the Navy as an enlisted sailor, Crosby earned a commission through the Navy’s Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program. Upon completion, he was selected to serve in the nuclear submarines field, where he completed multiple tours on fleet ballistic missile submarines before attending NWC to pursue a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies.

“As a member of the Gravely Group at the college in 2014, most of the students in the group didn’t know who [Vice] Adm. Gravely was despite us participating in this important research group in his namesake,” said Crosby, a NWC Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Naval Research Group fellow. “Not only did I research [Vice] Adm. Gravely, but being a submariner I wanted to also capture the contributions of the first seven African-American officers who commanded submarines, ‘The Centennial Seven’.”

The publication not only offers biographies, it also provides documentation of the professional achievements and leadership exercised by African-American admirals. Over time, these particular admirals increased in number and rose to the highest levels of leadership in the armed forces.

“While Gravely’s professionalism and potential to command as an admiral in the U.S. Navy was acknowledged, the admirals who followed in his path have not been recognized in a single study,” said William Bundy, director of the Gravely Group.

“Inspiring Innovation” will be introduced on Feb. 9 at the 2018 Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Conference Career Fair in Washington, D.C.

The conference is the first nationally recognized African-American History Observance Month event at which the Navy will have senior leader engagement on inclusion and diversity.

“The conference is a U.S. Navy event intended to promote diversity and inclusion in the Navy and the potential rewards of careers in the Navy,” said Bundy. “The publication outlines each leader’s path and progress through the officer ranks as each one goes through the process of becoming an officer, the training and sequence of career assignments and command.

“In total, it reveals the progressive acceptance of African-American commissioned naval officers and their ultimate promotions to the highest positions of accountability in the armed forces.”

The publication can be downloaded and viewed at

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