Sydney Barber to be US Naval Academy’s first Black woman brigade commander

Sydney Barber will begin as commander in the spring.

It only took 175 years but a Black woman has finally made it to the top position at the U.S. Naval Academy as brigade commander.

Sydney Barber will become the commander starting in the spring semester. The Lake Forest, Ill native is a mechanical engineering major, per a press release by USNA posted on Monday. The position is semester-long and is selected through an interview and application process.

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“Earning the title of brigade commander speaks volumes, but the title itself is not nearly as significant as the opportunity it brings to lead a team in doing something I believe will be truly special,” said Barber. “I am humbled to play a small role in this momentous season of American history.” 

Sydney Barber
Sydney Barber (Credit: United States Navy Academy)

The brigade commander is the highest role within the brigade and Barber was the top contender.

“She is a catalyst for action, a visionary, a listener, a doer, and a person driven by compassion, by faith, by a fierce sense of passion and heart full of love,” said Midshipman 1st Class Ryan Chapman who currently holds the spot. “Sydney is the perfect person to lead the brigade.” 

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Barber has a few titles under her belt as she is also co-president of the Navy Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club, the brigade’s 1st regiment executive office and the secretary for the National Society of Black Engineers.

Janie Mines was the first Black woman to graduate from the academy in 1980, per CBS News. She gave a shoutout to Barber on Linkedin.

“This bought me to tears. This young woman, Midshipman Sydney Barber, will be the first Black Female Brigade Commander at the US Naval Academy. 40 years later. Thank you Sydney! Love you!”

Barber will be the sixteenth woman to hold the title. Women have only been able to attend the academy in the last 44 years.

“Sydney stands out amongst her peers, for not only her exemplary record, but for her clear vision of how she intends to make the world a better place and her accompanying bias for action. We were incredibly proud to have Sydney represent the Naval Academy in her Truman Scholarship interview this year,” said Lt. Cmdr. Darby Yeager, a member of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Truman Scholarship selection committee.

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