Continuing Research

Janie L. Mines

In 1976, Janie L. Mines was the first and only African American female among the eighty-one women who were the first females allowed to enter the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA). She graduated in 1980 after her four-year training program at the Academy.

Janie L. Mines

Janie L. Mines

The U.S. Congress authorized the admittance of women to the service academies in August 1975. Subsequently, Mines became the first African American Woman Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in 1980.

Originally from Aiken, South Carolina, Mines, was one of two daughters of the Reverend W. L. Mines, a Minister at Rock Hill Missionary Baptist Church, and Daisy Sheppard Mines. She 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 realm, the 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 felt she and the Academy grew together and got past the mutual frustrations. She felt as though she was “prepared to deal with almost any challenge that came her way.”

The USNA was not the only post-secondary program to which Mines was accepted. She was welcomed to every Ivy League school to which 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 reported 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.

After leaving the Navy, Mines was awarded a prestigious Sloan Fellowship and earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the Alfred P. Sloan School of Business Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology She has also held management positions in several major corporations, such as Procter & Gamble, Frito-Lay, 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 (88). The book contains twenty-five vignette-based questions commonly asked by junior officers about the challenges she faced at the Academy.

She is the mother of a son, William.

Audio: Janie L. Mines

Continuing Research Archives

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