THE DIGITAL REPOSITORY FOR THE BLACK EXPERIENCE
- Get Involved
"To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required."
Chaplain Barry C. Black was born on November 1, 1948 in Baltimore, Maryland to Pearline Bull Black and Lester Clayton Black. He received his B.A. degree in theology in 1970 from Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, his M.Div. degree in 1972 from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and his M.A. degree in counseling in 1978 from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. Black went on to receive his Ph.D. degree in theology in 1982 from Eastern Baptist Seminary in Wayne, Pennsylvania, his M.A. degree in management in 1989 from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and his Ph.D. degree in psychology in 1996 from United States International University in San Diego, California.
After receiving his M.Div. degree, Black served a seven-church pastorate in South Carolina before joining the United States Navy as a chaplain in 1976. Following several six-month assignments at sea, he served in various capacities with the Naval Support Activity in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; the First Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan; the Naval Training Center in San Diego, California; the USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) in Long Beach, California; and Marine Aircraft Group 31 in Beaufort, South Carolina. Black then served as an assistant staff chaplain for the chief of naval education and training in Pensacola, Florida and fleet chaplain for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia. After serving as the Atlantic fleet chaplain, he was promoted in 1997 to admiral and deputy chief of chaplains in the Navy Chaplain Corps, becoming the first African American to hold both titles. In 2000, Black was promoted to two-star admiral and named the navy chief of chaplains, again becoming the first African American to hold that office. In 2003, he was appointed the sixty-second Chaplain of the United States Senate, becoming the first African American and first Seventh-day Adventist to serve in that capacity.
Black has served on several boards including the board of trustees of Pine Forge Academy and the Navy’s Quality Management Board of Core Values.
Black has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards. His military awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster. Other awards include the 1995 NAACP Renowned Service Award, the Benjamin Elijah Mays Distinguished Leadership Award from the Morehouse School of Religion in 2002, and the 2004 Image Award from the Old Dominion University chapter of the NAACP.
Black’s memoir, From the Hood to the Hill: A Story of Overcoming, was published in 2006.
Black and his wife, Brenda Black, live in Washington, D.C. They have three sons, Barry Black II, Brendan Black, and Bradford Black.
Barry C. Black was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 7, 2022.