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Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr.
Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr.
Charles Drew
Charles H. Houston
Anna J. Cooper

 

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Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. (1877 - 1970)

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was born in Washington, D.C., and studied at Howard University in 1897-1898. He served as a lieutenant in the Spanish American War and in 1899 he enlisted in the regular army as a private. He subsequently rose through years of service to become the first African American General in the U.S. Army, in 1940. After the war he served as assistant inspector general. In many ways, Davis helped prepare the way for the desegregation of the U.S. services, in 1947. He retired in 1948.

Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr.  (b. 1912)

American Air Force General Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., the son of the Army General Benjamin Davis, was born in Washington, D.C. After study at Western Reserve and Chicago universities, he attended West Point, where in 1936 he became the first African-American graduate in the 20th century. He did so with honors, graduating 35th in his class of 276. He served as an infantry officer, entered the U.S. air force, and completed his flight training in 1942.

During World War II he distinguished himself as a combat pilot, commanding the all-black 99th fighter squadron at the request of the Roosevelt Administration. He flew 60 missions in World War II and won the Silver Star. By 1944 he was a full colonel, and he became the first African American general in the history of the United States Air Force in 1954. He served as director of air power and organization for the Air Force and was appointed assistant secretary of transportation in 1971. President Clinton made him the first African American four star general in 1999 at a ceremony in the White House.

Charles Drew (1904-1950)

Charles DrewDr. Charles Drew was the first person to develop the blood bank, and his introduction of a system for the storing of blood plasma revolutionized the medical profession. Drew first utilized his system on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific during World War II, saving thousands of lives. In 1941 he organized the world's first blood bank project, Blood for Britain, and later established and served as the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank. During his time there he protested the policy of blood segregation.

Born in Washington, DC on June 3, 1904, Drew attended Dunbar High School and Amherst College, where he made his mark as the all-American half-back and captain of the football team. After graduating in 1926, he spent two years teaching and then went on to McGill University, where he received his Master of Surgery and Doctor of Medicine in 1933. Drew was the first black American to be awarded the doctor of science in medicine degree. In 1941 he was named professor of surgery at Howard University.

Charles H. Houston (1895- 1950)

Charles H. Houston developed the strategy for many celebrated civil rights cases brought before the U.S. Supreme Court by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was born in Washington, D.C., graduated from Amherst College in 1915, and Harvard Law School in 1922. From 1915 to 1935, he taught and served as vice-dean at Howard University, and practiced law in Washington from 1924 to 1950. Through his position at Howard, he guided and inspired several generations of African-Americans who would go on to prominent legal careers, among them, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Anna J. Cooper (1858-1964)

Author and educator Anna Julia Cooper (1858-1964) was one of the most influential and illustrious residents of black Washington. Born a slave and a widow at age 21, Cooper went on to become one of the first black female graduates of Oberlin College. She also finished a doctoral degree at the Sorbonne. She taught Latin at M Street High School, later Dunbar High School, for over 40 years, and served as principal of the school from 1901-1906. Through her efforts Dunbar students were secured admittance to the best schools in the country. Cooper stressed self improvement, racial pride, and scholarship to her students.

 

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