Cover image for Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., American : an autobiography.
Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., American : an autobiography.
Davis, Benjamin O., Jr., 1912-2002.
Publication Information:
Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, [1991]

Physical Description:
x, 442 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
UG626.2.D37 A3 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The first black to graduate from West Point in the twentieth century, Davis led the all-black Tuskeegee Airmen in World War II and retired a three-star general. His autobiography both chronicles the life of a great American and provides an incisive account of race relations in the segregated and desegrated military.

Reviews 5

Booklist Review

Davis recounts his distinguished military career, which began when he became the first black to graduate from West Point, included his command of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, and ended with two stars. He then goes on to his less well known civilian career in the 1970s and 1980s. The writing is somewhat flat, but an absorbing story emerges of a patriotic American, who managed to serve his country well in war and peace, overcoming in the process a great many barriers. Recommended for aviation or black-history collections. ~--Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

Davis, the first black graduate of West Point in this century, led the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron in WW II, commanded the integrated 51st Fighter Wing in Korea and the 13th Air Force during the Vietnam war. Retiring from the Air Force in 1970 as a three-star general, he served in a number of civilian posts, including director of public safety for the city of Cleveland and assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Davis enjoyed an almost unbroken string of successes in his military and civilian careers, the only major exception being a municipal job in Cleveland from which he resigned for political reasons. What lends the autobiography historical significance is Davis's account of the struggle to gain professional recognition not only for himself but for all black servicemen in the face of segregation, institutional racial prejudice and local bigotry. A revealing look at race relations from the point of view of a gifted, uncompromising military man. Photos. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Born in 1912 to the only black Regular Army officer in the U.S. Army, Davis graduated from West Point in 1936 and went on to a distinguished career in military aviation. He commanded the very successful black fighter groups whose performance eventually enabled the Air Force to integrate before civilian society had done so. Eventually he rose to lieutenant general, having all his life pioneered in race relations in hostile environments. Davis's intimate narrative omits many details, is often poorly organized, and not always smoothly written, but it breathes rage at the injustices of racism and offers constant inspiration. A very high priority purchase for military, public, and academic libraries because of the stature of the author.-- Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army TRALINET Ctr., Ft. Monroe, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-- An autobiography of the first African American to graduate from West Point in the 20th century. Although he was not wanted at that institution, Davis graduated 35th in a class of 276. His first assignment was at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was rejected by the Officers' Club. The turning point of his career came when he was asked by the Roosevelt Administration to lead the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron. Davis and his squadron silenced critics with aerial victories over Anzio in two successive days in January, 1944. He later served as director of Civilian Aviation Security and as assistant secretary for Environment, Safety and Consumer Affairs at the Department of Transportation. This book is highly recommended as it presents a new look at race relations from the point of view of an accomplished, steadfast military person.-- Mike Printz, Topeka West High School, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Davis recounts his life and career as an African American officer first in the Army Air Corps and later in the US Air Force. He tells his story against the social fabric of segregation and foreign war. Davis entered West Point in 1932, resolving to become an officer even though official military policy considered blacks decidedly inferior. Davis graduated 35th in a class of 276. Eventually he commanded the 99th Pursuit Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group--units now known as the Tuskegee Airmen--in combat over North Africa and Italy during WW II. The performance of the Tuskegee Airmen became a factor in the integration of the military in 1949 and their performance also advanced Davis's military career. Ultimately, Davis served as Chief of Staff for the UN Military Command in Korea; in 1965 he received his final rank of lieutenant general. Within this success story, Davis carefully crafts an often painful account of the discrimination he and his wife endured as a fact of American military and civilian life. Davis writes in an easy-to-follow narrative style; his account makes little attempt at analysis. He has no axes to grind or scores to settle. Photographs. For further reading see James R. McGovern's Black Eagle: General Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr. (CH, Dec'85) and Richard M. Dalfiume's Desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces; Fighting on Two Fronts, 1939-1953 (1969). All levels. -R. E. Marcello, University of North Texas