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Sun, 07.01.1877

Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the first modern American Black General

Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

This date marks the birth of Benjamin O. Davis Sr. in 1877. He was the first African American general in the modern era of the United States of America.

Benjamin Davis, Sr., was born just as the Reconstruction period was ending in Washington, D.C. He attended the all-Black M Street High School, where he received his first military training, liking the discipline and order. He attended Howard University and he joined the Eighth U.S. volunteer infantry.  After being commissioned as a first lieutenant, he decided he wanted a military career.  Equal rights for Blacks had few defenders at the turn of the 20th century and he could not get an appointment to West Point.

Davis, Sr. had to enlist and work his way up to a commission. He took his oath as a private in June 1899. He was the only man in his troop who could read and write. In 1901, he was commissioned as second lieutenant. He and his family moved around more than most in the Army because his superiors did not want Davis to command white troops or mix with white officers. Some of his postings were on the Mexican border and in Monrovia, Liberia.  In 1916, as a lieutenant colonel, he taught at Wilberforce University.

In 1940, he was promoted to brigadier general, the first African American to hold such a command since Reconstruction. During his career, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star, and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm. Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. died in 1970.

The World Book Encyclopedia.
Copyright 1996, World Book, Inc.
ISBN 0-7166-0096-X

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