The first African-American to win the Medal of Honor Safeguarded the American Flag and protected his country.
For over 200 years, the U.S. flag has stood for American courage and patriotism. Those that serve in the military hold the stars and stripes in very high reverence. In 1863 Army Sgt. William H. Carney risked his life to safeguard the symbol of American pride, which earned him the distinction of being the first ever African-American to be awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia on February 29, 1840 (Leap Day!), he grew up an ambitious and eager learner. On March 4, 1863 he joined an infantry regiment in Massachusetts to fight in the Civil War. Carney went above any beyond the call of duty at Fort Wagner, which is where he earned the military’s highest honor.
At that battle, Carney seized the American flag from enemy forces after being wounded in the leg and arm. Even after being rescued, the hero refused to give up the flag he fought so hard to protect. For his bravery and dedication, William H. Carney was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900, becoming the first African-American ever to receive it.