Henry Johnson Award

Henry Johnson Medal of Honor Exhibit at City Hall

Thursday, April 14 until Friday, July 1

The Sgt. Johnson’s Medal of Honor will be on display in the Rotunda of City Hall from April 14 until Friday, July 1. Viewing times: 

  • Monday-Friday: 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.HJA

  • Saturday, June 18 from Noon to 4 p.m. for the commemoration of Juneteenth

  • Extended evening hours until 8 p.m. on Monday, April 18;  Monday, May 16;  and Wednesday, June 29

In association with the viewing, A short South End tour, titled “Prominent African Americans in Albany from the Civil War Onward,” is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, at 2 p.m. It’s being conducted by Orville Abrahams and will begin at the Albany County Board of Elections at 260 South Pearl Street, Albany, NY 12202. Born in Jamaica, Orville spent much of his youth growing up in Albany’s South End, where swam in the Normanskill. His bedroom window at Ezra Prentice apartments was so close to the train tracks that he could talk to the conductors as they passed. Growing up there fueled his passion for Albany history and community activism as he fought for a better quality of life for the people of the South End. He is a member of the NAACP and a board member of AVIllage, a South End improvement group, and is a founder of Albany’s African Heritage Parade, which celebrates the contributions of the African diaspora. Orville currently works as Deputy Commissioner for Business Advocacy and Engagement at NYS Dept. of Labor. To see Orville in action, watch this short video

The City will also be promoting the play, “Camp Logan,” an award-winning WWI drama about the explosion of racial tensions in 1917 Houston, which involved an all-black Army regiment. The play is being performed by the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate NY at theREP.

  • June 2-5 and June 9-12 at TheRep

The Henry Johnson Award will be bestowed upon an Albany resident, nominated by their peers, who has madeHenry Johnson Instagram post 2022 meaningful contributions to our community. The City is looking to recognize an individual who has displayed commendable community leadership or support in any of the following areas:

  • Arts and history
  • Education
  • Social justice
  • Volunteerism

For more information, view the Henry Johnson Award Frequently Asked Questions (PDF).

Call for Nominations

The City of Albany is proud to present the sixth annual Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service. This year, feel free to also nominate those who have served on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. The awardee will be notified by email or by phone before a ceremony to be held at the City of Albany Jazz Festival on September 10, 2022.

Henry Johnson Award Nominee Requirements

Sergeant Henry JohnsonAbout Sergeant (Sgt.) Henry Johnson

On June 5, 1917, Albany resident Henry Johnson enlisted in the first African American unit in the U.S. Army to engage in combat in World War I. In May 1918 Johnson heroically fought off a German raid in hand-to-hand combat, saving the life of a fellow soldier. For his bravery, Johnson received France's highest award for valor, the first American to receive this distinction. Sgt. Johnson returned to Albany in 1919. Despite having been wounded 21 times, he received no honors from his home country. He died, destitute, in 1929, in his mid-30s. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Sgt. Henry Johnson was finally recognized by the United States government for his service to his country when he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. In 2015 he was awarded the National Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military honor, by President Barack Obama.

The Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service is given in the spirit of Albany resident Henry Johnson, in honor of his service and drive to go above and beyond the call of duty.