This Day in History… October 25, 1940

U.S. #3121 pictures Davis on an inspection tour of the American front in France in 1944.

Benjamin Davis Becomes First African American General in the U.S. Army

On October 25, 1940, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was appointed the first African American General in U.S. Army.

Born July 1, 1877 in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Davis was studying at Howard University when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898. He enlisted in the Army as a private, starting a long and distinguished military career.

U.S. #2818 – Davis served with the Buffalo Soldiers in the Philippine–American War in 1901.

Joining the Buffalo Soldiers, Davis rose through the ranks, and in 1905, received a promotion to first lieutenant. That same year he also began teaching as a professor of military science at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He later taught at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Promoted to colonel in 1930, he went on to become the first black soldier to achieve the rank of general on October 25, 1940.

During World War II Davis served in the European theater. As an adviser on race relations, he championed the idea of an all-inclusive armed services. On July 26, 1948, six days after Davis retired, President Truman issued the order ending racial discrimination in the military.

Davis’ awards during his 50-year military career include the Bronze Star, Distinguished Service Medal, French Croix de Guerre, and the Liberian Star of Africa.

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