Janie L. Mines
Janie L. Mines was the first and only African American female among the 81 women who entered the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in 1976. The U.S. Congress authorized the admittance of women to the service academies in August 1975. Ms. Mines was also the first African American Woman Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in 1980.
Originally from Aiken, South Carolina, Mines graduated from Aiken High school in 1976, where she had been a member of the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps and the National Honor Society. She was also the class Salutatorian.
Times were rough when Mines entered the Academy. She stated, “The Academy wasn’t ready for [women]. . . It just happened quickly, and it needed to be done. The Academy considered itself to be a combat school, and [women] were not allowed to serve in combat. So, we were seen as taking up spots for good combat officers that were needed because we couldn’t do the job.” Additionally, she believed there was a general belief that as a Black woman, she wouldn’t be able to do the job of leading in what was then a white male Navy. Most male upperclassmen did not accept the women in the charter class, and she recalls many forms of dissension. Yet, when she graduated, one of her classmates left her a rose with a note that read, “I’m sorry.” These experiences were different from any she had ever experienced before, and so she feels she and the Academy grew together and got past the mutual frustrations. She feels as though she is “prepared to deal with almost any challenge that comes her way.”
The USNA was not the only post-secondary program to which Mines was accepted. She was welcomed to every Ivy League where she applied, as well as an ROTC program at the University of California, Berkeley. Nevertheless, when the Academy called, and she discovered she would be the only Black woman who would be admitted, she felt it was something she had to do.
Mines graduated in 1980, with the rank of Ensign and a B.S. in general engineering. (Her sister graduated from the Academy in 1981. While at the Academy, Mines was a member of the fencing team, squad leader, midshipman drill officer, and regimental adjutant. Although she is reported as finding the experience hard and disillusioning, she also found it valuable in learning how to deal with and make good progress in the system.
After an injury ended her plans for a career in the Marines, she trained as a supply officer and was assigned to a supervisory position at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida. She also served in the naval annex at the Pentagon and aboard the USS Emory S. Land. Further, Mines served as a senior advisor on the staff of the Secretary of the Navy.
Since leaving the Navy, Mines earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has also held management positions in several major corporations, such as Procter & Gamble, Hershey Foods, and Bank of America. Furthermore, she has been a management consultant and a member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service. Currently, she continues to mentor midshipmen and young Navy officers.
In 2019, she published No Coincidences: Reflections of the first Black Female Graduate of the United States Naval Academy. The book contains 25 vignette-based questions commonly asked by junior officers about the challenges she faced at the Academy.