Remembering Henry “Black Death” Johnson and the Harlem Hellfighters 100 Years Past Their Due

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Henry Johnson, wearing his Croix de Guerre. Source: Wikipedia.

There is not, perhaps, a more amazing story of American valor and patriotism in World War I than that of the 369th Infantry Regiment. But it is also perhaps the most disappointing because of the regiment’s reception by the American government and its white citizens. One might think that stopping a 24-man German advance with nought but a Bolo knife, the butt of his rifle, and his fists would earn Hellfighter Henry Johnson some sort of American recognition, but that did not happen until two years ago in 2015, when Johnson no longer had any living relatives to accept his Medal of Honor. The Harlem Hellfighters deserve a better story than this, but hopefully it inspires a commitment to listen to diverse experiences before it’s too late to make a difference.

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