The Medal of Honor is the most prestigious military award given to members of the Armed Forces. The medal is awarded by the United States President to military members who have demonstrated military valor. While there are over 3,500 recipients, only 92 are Black Medal of Honor recipients.
Suggested read: Korean War Dates: Three Years of Battle, a Lifetime of Recovery
List of Black Medal of Honor Recipients
How many Black Medal of Honor recipients are there? There are currently 92 who have received the award. Here’s the list of the Black Medal of Honor recipients that deserve recognition.
- Sergeant William H. Carney
- Private William H. Barnes
- First Sergeant Powhatan Beaty
- First Sergeant James H. Bronson
- Sergeant Major Christian A. Fleetwood
- Private James Gardner
- Sergeant James H. Harris
- Sergeant Alfred B. Hilton
- Sergeant Major Milton M. Holland
- Corporal Miles James
- Corporal Andrew Jackson Smith
- First Sergeant Alexander Kelly
- First Sergeant Robert Pinn
- First Sergeant Edward Ratcliff
- Private Charles Veale
- Sergeant Major Thomas Hawkins
- Sergeant Decatur Dorsey
- Private Bruce Anderson
- Sergeant Major Milton Murray Holland
- Robert Blake
- John Lawson
- James Mifflin
- Joachim Pease
- Aaron Anderson
- William H. Brown
- Wilson Brown
- Thomas English
- Seaman: John Davis
- Seaman: Alphonse Girandy
- Seaman: John Johnson
- Seaman: John Smith
- Seaman: Robert Augustus Sweeney
- Cooper: William Johnson
- Ship’s Cook First Class: Daniel Atkins
- Seaman: Joseph Noil
- Sergeant Emanuel Stance
- Corporal Clinton Greaves
- Sergeant George Jordan
- Sergeant Thomas Boyne
- Sergeant John Denny
- Sergeant Henry Johnson
- First Sergeant Moses Williams
- Private Augustus Walley
- Corporal William O. Wilson
- Sergeant Benjamin Brown
- Private Pompey Factor
- Private Adam Paine
- Private William Thompkins
- Trumpeter Isaac Payne
- Sergeant John Ward
- Sergeant (First Lieutenant) William McBryar
- Corporal Isaiah Mays
- Sergeant Thomas Shaw
- Sergeant Brent Woods
- Edward L. Baker, Sergeant Major
- George H. Wanton
- William H. Tompkins
- Dennis Bell
- Fitz Lee
- Robert Penn
- Corporal Freddie Stowers
- 1st LT. Vernon J. Baker, Company C – 370th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division
- Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter, Jr., U.S. Army 56th Armored Infantry, 12 Armored Division, (No. 1 Provisional)
- 1st LT. John R. Fox, Cannon Company, 366th Infantry, 92nd Division
- PFC Willy F. James, Jr., U.S. Army Company G, 413th Infantry Regiment, 104th Division
- Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, U.S. Army Company A, 761st Tank Battalion, 3rd Army
- 1st Lt. Charles L. Thomas, U.S. Army Company C, 614st Tank Destroyer Battalion, 103rd Division
- Pvt. George Watson, U.S. Army, Birmingham, Alabama, 29th Quartermaster Regiment
- PFC William Thompson
- Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton
- PFC Milton L. Olive III
- Private First Class Garfield M. Langhorn
- Platoon Sergeant Matthew Leonard
- Sergeant Donald Russell Long
- Captain Riley Leroy Pitts
- Lieutenant Colonel Charles Calvin Rogers
- First Lieutenant Ruppert L. Sargent
- Specialist Fifth Class Clarence Eugene Sasser
- Staff Sergeant Clifford C. Sims
- Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris
- Gunnery Sergeant John Canley
- First Lieutenant John E. Warren, Jr.
- Sergeant First Class William Maud Bryant
- PFC James Anderson, Jr.
- PFC Oscar P. Austin
- Sergeant Rodney M. Davis
- PFC Robert H. Jenkins Jr.
- Specialist Sixth Class Lawrence Joel
- PFC Ralph H. Johnson
- Specialist Five Dwight Hal Johnson
- Sergeant First Class Webster Anderson
- Sergeant First Class Eugene Ashley, Jr.
You can explore the story of Vietnam Vet and Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris below.
Notable African American Heroes in History
While the list above does commemorate African Americans in the military who have shown great strength, there are some who stand out.
Robert Blake was the first Black Medal of Honor recipient in 1864. During the American Civil War, he was a slave who performed tasks that led to the enemies leaving their positions. While Blake was the first Black recipient, William Carney was the first Black person to actually perform an action for which he received the Medal of Honor, though he was given the award later. During the Civil War, Carney did not let the flag touch the ground, even when he was injured and in severe pain.
Before 1997, no Black military men from World War II had received the award, and a study in 1993 discovered discrimination against Black people that prevented them from being recognized. President Clinton awarded the first group of black Veterans from World War II. Vernon Baker, Edward A. Carter Jr., John R. Fox, Willy F. James Jr., Ruben Rivers, Charles L. Thomas, and George Watson all received the medal. Six of the members had passed, and Vernon Baker was the only living recipient.
Robert Augustus Sweeney is the only Black recipient to have received the medal twice. The first medal was awarded because he saved a shipmate from drowning, and the second medal was awarded because he rescued another member who fell overboard from a vessel.
Challenges for African Americans With the Medal of Honor
Racism barring the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Black heroes was especially present in the past. In the first forty years that the Medal of Honor was being awarded, the ratio of nominations of Black people to White people was not equal. When Black people did receive awards, they were usually delayed, such as Carney’s, as he did not receive his medal until 1900.
Racism became even more prominent with the award in World War I due to the Jim Crow laws that were present in the military. Because of this, there were no Black people from World War I and World War II that received the medal until 1997. From 1941 to 1945, the Navy failed to nominate Black Sailors for the Medal of Honor.
Recognizing Valor and Heroism
Today, Captain Paris Davis is another Black man that is close to being awarded for a heroic act on the battlefield. During the Vietnam War, he ignored an order to leave the field and instead chose to save lives in a firefight.
Davis’s nomination for the award will hopefully add him to the list of Black Medal of Honor recipients. However, there are no Black female Medal of Honor recipients. We can only hope that Black female military members can be recognized for their continued acts of courage on the battlefield and one day be awarded for their bravery and strength with the Medal of Honor.
Image: Robert Blake (Wiki Commons), William Carney (U.S. Army), Paris Davis (Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times)