West Point football was all-White until 1966. So why does this 1920s photo show an all-Black squad?

National Archives scans reveal rare images of a Black team at the then-segregated military academy.

Richard Schneider had just scanned the old negative of a West Point football team into his computer. It was a classic black-and-white shot from the 1920s — linemen posed in formation, the center about to snap the ball.

It was one of thousands of fragile West Point nitrate images he had retrieved from a refrigerated vault at the National Archives’ site in College Park, Md. He opened a program to flip the negative to positive and clicked invert.

To his surprise, the image that popped up showed a team of all African American players. But the U.S. Military Academy did not have its first varsity Black football player until 1966, 40 years later.

“Who are these guys?” he said he wondered.

Schneider had opened a fascinating window into West Point’s past — a time when, amid entrenched racial segregation, units of the famous African American troops known as Buffalo Soldiers were brought to West Point to teach horsemanship.

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Author: Dian Welle