Black History Month – Henry Johnson

Mural on a building of WWI hero Henry Johnson and other WWI service members, on Henry Johnson Blvd. in Albany, NY.

Henry Johnson was born in Virginia, but lived in Albany, the capital of New York, since his teens. He worked as a redcap (porter) at the Albany Union Station. He was also a sergeant in an all African American unit (the 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 15th Infantry Regiment of the National Guard during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre with star and the Gold Palm from the French govenment for his heroism in fighting off a 20 person raiding party of Germans.

He was the first American to receive these awards, and yet there was no recognition from his own country.

Finally in 1996, he was awarded the long overdue Purple Heart and in 2003, the Distinguished Service Cross. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Honor, accepted by Command Sergeant Louis Wilson of the New York National Guard.

He is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

In Albany’s Washington Park stands a monument to Henry Johnson, just over half a mile from the street that bears his name.

Henry Johnson Monument, Washington Park, Albany, NY, erected in 1991.
Detailed photo of the bust of Henry Johnson.

WMHT presents Henry Johnson: A Tale of Courage

Author Max Brooks on Henry Johnson, the Unlikely War Hero

What Was This Week?


It’s been next to impossible to write about politics this week. I started to, a number of times, but they all ended with me tearing my hair out, and screaming into the void.

I began the day before Election Day in a flurry of anxiety and excitement for Tuesday, and then the Blue Wave hit. I started keeping tabs on races, and began an excited post that I planned on posting sometime late on Wednesday.

Then the President had his news conference, and he was quite nasty to some journalists, including Yamiche Alcindor, Jim Acosta, and Peter Alexander, not to mention April Ryan.

Then Jim Acosta had his credentials revoked.

Jeff Sessions, Matt Whittaker, Robert Mueller, Tucker Carlson’s lunacy, which I’ve just discovered doesn’t match up to the police report, but wait, there’s more.

Then the President attacked journalist, Abby Phillips.

Then he backed out of the Veteran’s Day visit to the American Cemetery in France during the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, the end of World War I.

Then he was two hours late to dinner with the other leaders.

I’ve been offline for most of today, and I have to say it’s been a blessing.

I need to catch up, but I think I’m waiting for tomorrow’s podcasts to catch me up. I especially like MSNBC’s Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace.

So, what I’ve decided to do is to write a short piece on my feelings on Jim Acosta’s credentials, a slightly longer one for Tuesday, the one week anniversary of the Blue Wave about the Blue Wave, and completely ignore the disgrace of the man in the White House as he manages to embarrass this country once again with his petty, selfish, unAmerican conduct.

In his place, many others have stepped into the open space, and added their messages of honor to the veterans, all of them, but especially those we remember from one hundred years ago as they defeated the enemy, and brought the world together in peace.

I’ll leave you with these words from Laurence Binyon‘s poem, For the Fallen, published 21 Sept 1914:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Henry Johnson, Medal of Honor Recipient, 2015


Watch it live here at 11:15am:


These are photos that I took about three years ago on a visit to Washington Park in Albany, NY of the Henry Johnson Monument, commemorating the bravery and valor displayed by Sgt. Johnson during his service in World War I.

Later today at the White House, President Obama will award two posthumous Medal of Honors, one to Sgt. William Shemin (who was Jewish) and one to Sgt. Henry Johnson, both of whom fought in France during WWI.

Henry Johnson was born in 1897 in Virginia and moved to Albany, New York in his teens. He enlisted in the all Black National Guard unit, which was called up in the 19-teens. Because of racial tensions and white soldiers’ refusal to work alongside Black soldiers (even though all were Americans), General Pershing authorized their loan to the French government where Henry Johnson fought valiantly and unendingly. He fought off a 20 person raiding party of Germans. That is such a watered down one-sentence does-not-give-it-justice summary of the real story.

The French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre for his service and selfless bravery. He was the first American soldier to receive the Croix de Guerre with star and Gold Palm in World War I.

He was finally awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 by President Bill Clinton and the Distinguished Cross in 2003 was awarded to his son on his behalf. Sgt. Johnson’s son, Herman Johnson was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

It was thought that Henry was buried in a pauper’s grave in Albany after his death in 1929, but is buried in Arlington Cemetery, and that, as they say, is also another story.

Finally, President Obama is rectifying a wrong almost one hundred years old.



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