He stands there, tall and proud, gazing into the camera, a backdrop of the United States Capitol behind him. Dressed in a high-collared wool uniform with a corporal’s rank insignia sewn on his right sleeve, Benjamin Harrison Splowne had reason to beam. Drafted in June 1917 into the National Army, he was promoted to the rank of corporal within a few months of his induction.
Exactly where and when this photograph was taken is subject to speculation. It is conceivable that it was taken in Newport News, as Benjamin Harrison Splowne was stationed at Camp Hill, Virginia for a brief while in 1917. In fact, he was promoted to corporal on November 16, 1917 at Camp Hill, shortly before shipping overseas. The Museum is fortunate to have his promotion certificate, along with his studio portrait, for they help document the often-overlooked role of African American soldiers during World War I, both in Newport News as well as abroad.