25 Oct:
America’s First Black General

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. became the first African-American general in the US Army on 25th October, 1940 – despite facing opposition from those who saw his appointment as political opportunism, whilst Roosevelt wooed the ‘negro vote’.

Despite facing racial discrimination throughout his career, Davis had a deep connection to the military, serving in various roles and campaigns, including the Spanish American War, and had been mentored by Lieutenant Charles Young, the only other black officer at the time. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why Davis’s date of birth is a question of debate; explain how Davis’s son went on to have a military career that echoed the discrimination and successes of his father’s; and trace the history of black soldiers’ involvement in the US Army since the country’s foundation… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Benjamin O. Davis Sr. (1877-1970)’ (Blackpast, 2017): https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/davis-sr-benjamin-o-1877-1970-2/

• ‘Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr’ (U.S. Army Center of Military History, 2021):  https://history.army.mil/html/topics/afam/davis.html

• ‘Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. – First African American to command a Brigade’ (Pritzker Military Museum & Library, 2023):