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Tanu T. Henry

was born Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. in Washington, D.C., the son of the U.S. army's first black general, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., and his wife, Elnora Dickerson. Davis spent most of his childhood living on different military bases. By the time he entered high school, his family had settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he attended a predominantly white school. At his high school, he began to prove his leadership ability, winning elections for class president. After high school, he enrolled in Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University and later the University of Chicago, before he was accepted in 1932, through the influence of the congressman Oscar DePriest, into the United States Military Academy at West Point.

At West Point, which discouraged black cadets from applying at the time, Davis faced a hostile environment and routine exclusion by his peers His classmates shunned him and only talked ...

Article

Brian F. Neumann

U.S. Air Force general and commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. Born in Washington, D.C., Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. was the son of Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the first African American general in American history, and first flew at the age of fourteen, developing a deep love of flying that defined his life and career.

After attending the University of Chicago, Davis entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1932. The last African American to graduate from the academy had done so in 1880, and Davis endured four years of isolation from his fellow cadets before graduating in 1936, thirty-fifth in a class of 276. Davis's request for assignment to the Army Air Corps was denied because there were no black aviation units. After marrying Agatha Scott Davis was assigned to the all black Twenty fourth Infantry Regiment the buffalo soldiers and served as ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Maureen Honey

commander of the only African American unit of the Women's Army Corps stationed in Europe during World War II, was born Charity Edna Adams, the eldest of four children. She was raised in Columbia, South Carolina, where her father was a minister in the African Episcopal Methodist Church. Her mother was a former teacher.

Adams graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia as valedictorian of her senior class and then from Wilberforce University in Ohio, one of the top three black colleges in the nation in the 1930s. She majored in Math and Physics and graduated in 1938. After returning to Columbia, where she taught junior high school mathematics for four years, Adams enrolled in the MA program for vocational psychology at Ohio State University, pursuing her degree during the summers.

As a member of the military's Advisory Council to the Women's Interests Section (ACWIS), Mary ...

Article

Amy M. Hay

In her memoir One Woman’s Army (1989), Charity Adams Earley recorded her experiences training women to become soldiers and fighting segregation in the United States Army as a black officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps, or WAC) during World War II. In recording her story, Earley recognized the need for a personal account of how women and minorities gained acceptance with the military. During her military career, Adams fought not only for her country but for equality, challenging the army’s policy of segregation and individual racism, and left the military with the rank of lieutenant colonel, the highest possible rank after that of the WAC commander herself.

Charity Adams was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and grew up in the Jim Crow South, one of four children born to the Reverend Eugene Adams and Charity A. Adams In her early ...

Article

John C. Fredriksen

soldier and engineer, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smith preceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on 14 June 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U. S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878 ...

Article

Barbara B. Tomblin

army general, nurse, and educator, was born Hazel Winifred Johnson, the daughter of Clarence L. and Garnett Johnson, in Malvern, Pennsylvania. One of seven children, she grew up in a close-knit family on a farm in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Although she was rejected from the local nursing program because of racial prejudice, Johnson persisted in her childhood dream of becoming a nurse and received a nursing diploma in 1950 from Harlem Hospital School of Nursing in New York City. Following graduation, she worked as a beginning-level staff nurse at Harlem Hospital's emergency ward and in 1953 went to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Philadelphia, quickly becoming the head nurse on a ward.

Two years later Johnson decided to join the army because she said the Army had more variety to offer and more places to go Bombard 65 She was commissioned as a second lieutenant ...

Article

George Derek Musgrove

U.S. congressman, was born Parren James Mitchell, the ninth child of Clarence Maurice Mitchell, a waiter, and Elsie Davis in Baltimore, Maryland. The Mitchells lived in a cramped, two-story row house on one of the “alley” streets of Old West Baltimore, and the family could be considered poor. Parren attended segregated Garnet Elementary School, Booker T. Washington Junior High School, and Frederick Douglass High School, from which he graduated in 1940. In 1942 he joined the army and was immediately shipped overseas where he served in the Ninety-Second Infantry Division as a commissioned officer and company commander. Mitchell was awarded the Purple Heart in 1944 after being wounded during fighting in Italy.

After being honorably discharged from the army in 1946, Mitchell returned to Baltimore to attend Morgan State College. There he earned a BA in Sociology and graduated with honors in 1950 Immediately ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

army officer, instructor. Charles Young was born in Mayslick, Kentucky, the only child of Gabriel and Arminta Bruen Young, both born in slavery. With Charles fourteen months old, they moved to Ripley, Ohio, where he grew up. Multitalented in music (piano, organ, guitar, composition), poetry, painting, and languages, after his early schooling Charles Young nevertheless chose, perhaps because his father had run away to join the Union forces in the Civil War, to enter officer candidate's training at the U.S. Military Academy. The ninth black man to attend West Point, he was third to graduate, in 1889. From what he later described as a “dog's life,” he developed a steely, polite, cool reserve that he could call up as needed and became conscious that sharp attention from both supporters and detractors meant that throughout his life, he would represent black Americans.

Young s first assignments were on the ...