Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Aram Goudsouzian

Committee Member

Susan Potter

Committee Member

Steven Stein

Committee Member

Brian Kwoba


Abstract on Benjamin O. Davis Sr.: Americas First Black General: The Paradox of Racial Leadership and the Military Profession ArrayThe purpose of this dissertation is to examine the life and military legacy of the Armys first African-American general. Using the life and military career of Benjamin O. Davis Sr. as a lens into the military experience of black soldiers in general, I hope to capture his historical impact upon the military and American society in general. I would like to explore to what extent Davis accommodated, resisted, and or negotiated the larger patterns of racism in the US military, and to what extent he shaped those patterns. American attributes normally associated as positive traits that coincided with military service, i.e., nationalism, military professionalism, and service to the nation, in many cases, clashed against the black American experience of racism, segregation, and open prejudice. As blacks entered the military of Daviss era they were faced with an institution that was openly hostile and dominated by white male figures who openly questioned their value and role within the military.Within this dissertation I will expand on the discussion about the life and service of Davis started by Marvin Fletcher in 1989. This has been the only work written on Davis Sr. Most black military historians or writers have largely overlooked the service and meaning of Daviss life and status as the Armys first black general officer. Several key black authors mentioned within this study, Bernard Nalty, Gail Buckley, David Kilroy, and Gerald Patton, only briefly touch on Davis in their studies of blacks who have served in Americas military. I assert that Davis helped to shape conversations about what military service meant to black soldiers and Americans and African Americans in general. While he may have been a reluctant racial figure, Daviss service and success within the military helped to open portals towards understanding spatial, cultural, and social aspects of blacks service within the army from the period that he served to present.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest