Henry Johnson grew up in Albany, New York, and became a true American hero and an inspiration to all who have come to learn of his extraordinary service and bravery as a soldier in the First World War. He is an example, particularly to young people, of someone who voluntarily served and sacrificed for his country, even as he faced segregation and injustice.
Sergeant Johnson volunteered to serve his country after it entered World War I, becoming a famous member of the New York National Guard’s 369th Infantry Regiment, also known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” The United States Army was still segregated at that time, so the all-black regiment was sent to France to fight with the French 4thArmy. In May, 1918, Sergeant Johnson and a fellow soldier came under heavy fire from enemy forces while guarding a bridge previously captured by their unit. Greatly outnumbered, Sergeant Johnson fought off the enemy single-handedly, rescued his comrade from temporary capture, and suffered heavy wounds in the battle.
For his extraordinary bravery, Sergeant Johnson was awarded the Croix de Guerre (the Cross of War) with Gold Palm by the French, their highest military honor. He was the first American soldier to be so honored. But his achievements went largely unrecognized in terms of military honors in his own country until long after his death in 1929. In recent years, Henry Johnson has finally been awarded, posthumously, the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. military’s second highest medal. President Barack Obama posthumously awarded America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, to Henry Johnson for his bravery and gallantry at the White House on June 2, 2015.
We are proud to name our school after Sergeant Henry Johnson for he is a person worthy of such honor. He will serve as a compelling touchstone for the school’s focus on the character development and academic achievement of its scholars.