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.