The story of the National Guard is the story of America. It is the story of
the fight for independence, the fight against tyranny, the fight for
democracy, and the fight for freedom. In each of these stories, you will
find Black Americans, because Black history is American history.
It is the story of Salem Poor, who was born into slavery, purchased his
freedom, joined the Massachusetts militia, and distinguished himself at the
Battle of Bunker Hill.
It is the story of William Harvey Carney, who was born into slavery in
Virginia, joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and
ferociously battled the Confederate Army at Fort Wagner, becoming the first
African-American Medal of Honor recipient.
It is the story of Henry Johnson, who joined the National Guard in 1917 and
became part of New York's 369th Infantry Regiment-best known as the "Harlem
Hellfighters." Sent to fight with the 16th Division of the French Army,
Henry Johnson would prove himself a hero in the Argonne forest in
hand-to-hand combat where he sustained 21 wounds himself and became the
first American awarded France's Croix de Guerre with a golden palm.
Since the beginning of our history, Black Americans fought for our Nation,
even when they were denied rights, opportunities, and even basic humanity in
the eyes of the law. They fought for the ideals President Abraham Lincoln
named in the Gettysburg Address: "A new Nation, conceived in liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Today, in many ways, our Nation still struggles to give all its citizens
equal opportunities. But our story is not finished, and we can work together
to write a history we're proud to leave behind. This Black History Month,
let us learn the stories of the Black Americans who shaped our Nation, and
ultimately become the Nation for which they fought.
Daniel R. Hokanson
General, U.S. Army
Chief, National Guard Bureau
Tony L. Whitehead
Senior Enlisted Advisor
National Guard Bureau