SHARE Collection Highlights

Benjamin O. Davis Photographic Print from Glass Negative (1901)

Long before Benjamin Davis made history as the first African-American U.S. Army General, he had this portrait taken at Fort Leavenworth while there for his officer's examination.

Davis had served as a Lieutenant in the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War. After this temporary commission expired, he re-enlisted as a private in the 9th Cavalry. Just before this portrait was produced, Davis received news that he had passed the officer's exam—the first African-American ever to do so in the Regular Army.

Pictured here as a sergeant major in his earliest known uniformed photograph, Davis served as a 2nd Lieutenant in both the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalries from 1901-1902, seeing combat action on the islands of Samar and Panay during the Philippine-American War. After receiving numerous citations for his service in the First and Second World Wars—and remembered best for his influence on integration within the Army while serving in the European Theater of WWII—Davis retired as a Brigadier General in 1948.

  • Davis, seen here as a brigadier general in 1944 France, became the first African-American general in the U.S. Army in October 1940.

  • This Black Heritage Stamp was produced by the U.S. Postal Service in 1997 to honor the legacy of Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

  • Benjamin O. Davis Jr. (left), commanded the Tuskegee Airmen from 1943-1945 and retired as the first African-American U.S. Air Force General.

  • Marvin Fletcher's biography of Davis, entitled "America's First Black General," features a foreword by Benjamin Davis Jr. and is available via our library catalog.