This Day in History: 1880-04-05

In the early hours of the morning, Cadet Johnson Whittaker, one of the first Black students in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was brutally beaten by white cadets while sleeping in his barracks. Three white cadets ambushed Cadet Whittaker, slashed his head and ears, burned his Bible, threatened his life and then left him in his underwear, tied to the bed and bleeding profusely. West Point opened an investigation into Whittaker, declined to hold his white attackers accountable, and charged and convicted Cadet Whittaker of staging the attack to get out of his final exams. After two years in prison, the court martial was overturned by order of US President Chester A. Arthur, but West Point then reinstated Whittaker’s expulsion by claiming he had failed one of his exams. Learn more.