July 8, 2008

Black Patriotism: The Blood of Heroes

During World War I on the first day of the draft, 700,000 African American men signed up.

Pictured at left: Members of the 369th Infantry Regiment, popularly known as the Harlem Hellfighters. The 369th Infantry Regiment was known for being the first African-American Regiment during WWI. One Medal of Honor and many Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded to members of the regiment. The most celebrated man in the 369th was Pvt. Henry Lincoln Johnson, a former Albany, New York, rail station porter, who earned the nickname "Black Death" for his actions in combat in France. In May 1918 Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts fought off a 24-man German patrol, though both were severely wounded. After they expended their ammunition, Roberts used his rifle as a club and Johnson battled with a bolo knife. Johnson was the first American to receive the Croix de Guerre. By the end of the war, 171 members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Honor

This historical note is merely one singular reminder that the patriotic bona fides of African Americans have been sealed in the blood of heroes during every American conflict in our country's history.