Senate confirms 1st Black 4-star general in Marine history

(WASHINGTON) — Lt. Gen. Michael E. Langley was confirmed by the Senate on Monday as a four-star general, making history as the first Black Marine to attain that rank.

The Senate’s confirmation came after President Joe Biden nominated Langley in June to lead the U.S. Africa Command, responsible for military operations in Africa.

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Langley said at his July 21 confirmation hearing that his father, retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Willie C. Langley, served in the military for 25 years, while his stepmother, Ola Langley, served the U.S. Post Office.

Langley has served for 37 years, including as the deputy commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, deputy commanding general of the Fleet Marine Force, and as the commanding general of the Marine Forces Europe and Africa. In November 2021, he assumed the duties of commanding general, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, and commander, Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command.

“It is a great honor to be the president’s nominee to lead USAFRICOM. I am grateful to the trust and confidence extended by him, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the commandant of the Marine Corps,” Langley said in the July Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Following its founding on Nov. 10, 1775, the U.S. Marine Corps barred Black Americans from enlisting until President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 on June 25, 1941. While the order prohibited discriminatory recruitment practices in national defense departments, agencies and industries, civil rights concerns remained, according to the National Archives.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued another executive order that banned segregation in the armed forces. Executive Order 9981 was initially met with resistance from military personnel, according to the National Archives, but all units were eventually desegregated by the end of the Korean War.

Despite significant progress since the Marine Corps’ establishment, Black men and women are still underrepresentedin the Marines Corps senior leadership, according to a 2020 Council on Foreign Relations report. In 2016, the Department of Defense reported there were six Black general-ranking officers serving in the Marine Corps out of a total 87 across all racial demographics.

“Now, the global security environment we are witnessing today is the most challenging I have seen throughout my 37 years,” Langley said during the July hearing, referencing “global tensions” and other threats.

Nevertheless, he said, he is “enthusiastic to engage across the whole government to faithfully execute the policies and orders of the president and the secretary of defense.”

ABC News’ Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.