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date: 10 July 2020

Davis, Benjamin O., Sr. locked

(b. 1 July 1877; d. 26 November 1970),
  • Brian F. Neumann


first African American general in American history. Evidence has been presented that Davis was born 28 May 1880 and then lied about his age to enlist in the army; the earlier date is the one on his tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery. Born to a government worker in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Oliver Davis came from a middle-class home and benefited from the educational opportunities this presented. He attended Washington's M Street High School, gaining a taste for military life in the cadet corps. After a brief stint at Howard University, he helped recruit a black company of U.S. volunteer infantry in 1898 after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. He served in the all-black unit as a lieutenant. The unit was not sent overseas, and Davis was mustered out in 1899 Denied enrollment at the U S Military Academy at West Point he enlisted as a private in the ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present.

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