To the Editor,
I just read Carl Strock's indignant column about the attempt to posthumously award Henry Johnson a Congressional Medal of Honor. His irritation is occasioned by the heartening discovery of Mr. Johnson's burial in Arlington National Cemetery rather than the potter's field where it was long supposed Johnson had been interred. Apparently Mr. Strock believes that this discovery absolves the nation for its neglect of Mr. Johnson.
My grandfather fought in Johnson's regiment, however, unlike Henry Johnson my grandfather
was awarded the Medal of Honor. Of course, my grandfather was white. Colored troops could fight and die just fine, but it would hardly have done to let them be officers,
like my grandfather, or receive fancy honors like the MOH. That would have been cruel and given them the silly idea that they were the equals of any man. It was much better to send them back to Jim Crow in America prepared to sink back down to their place at bottom of the heap.
My Grandfather came back a hero. He was appointed State Auditor of Kansas and held the office for 24 years. When Henry Johnson came back America wasted little time
reminding him that he was just another n________. Evidently, Jim Crow couldn't deny him his rights to an Arlington gravesite but it still had the satisfaction of seeing him forgotten by all save the filing clerks of Veteran's Affairs.
Mr. Strock is no doubt right when he says that there are more pressing concerns for black Americans than Mr. Johnson's medal. Still, I'm taken aback by Strock's scorn for the elected officials who are trying to do right by Henry Johnson. Strock accuses them of groveling at the feet of black voters. Its funny, but it almost sounds to me as though Mr. Strock is engaged in a little groveling himself - to his poor, misunderstood, white readership.
Harry Robb Welty
Grandson of George Seanor Robb, MOH winner
2101 E 4th St.
Duluth, MN 55812