Welcome to America Comes Alive!, a site I created to share little-known stories of America’s past. These stories are about Americans—people just like you—who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and find what inspires you.

African-American leaders have been vital to making America strong.

Harlem Hellfighter Hero: Henry Lincoln Johnson

Harlem HellfighterThe Harlem Hellfighters were a heroic bunch from the beginning, but this World War I infantry regiment had one man who stood out from all the rest: Private Henry Lincoln Johnson (1897-1929), a former railroad porter.  Johnson and fellow soldier Robert Needham were on night sentry duty when the base was attacked. Johnson and Needham repelled the German raid; Needham was badly injured early on and Johnson managed to keep him from being taken prisoner.

Johnson Enlists

Henry Johnson was born into poverty in the South, and once grown, he drifted north in search of work.  By the time the call went out for men to enlist for service in World War I, Johnson was  married and living in Albany, New York making his living as a railroad porter.

Johnson wanted to serve and traveled to Brooklyn to sign up; he was assigned to the all-black unit of the National Guard that was to become the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment.  At that time, African-Americans could only join some divisions of the military and were relegated to non-combat, support roles.

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"What can one person do?"
Read some of the stories on this site; you'll see that they revolve around single individuals who worked toward change.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Rosenwald Schools
The Rosenwald Schools  were built in the early 20th century as a solution to the scarcity of schools for African-Americans in the rural South at that time.  The school-building program was the idea of educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) who approached Julius Rosenwald, (1862-1932), the president of… Continue reading »

Oscar Micheaux
Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951) had no mentors and no background that prepared him for any of the challenges he undertook, but he successfully amassed land in the West at a time when few African-Americans were homesteading; he published his own novels, one… Continue reading »

better McAlpin
Eighteen months ago I profiled Harry McAlpin.  He was a reporter for the National Negro Press Association and the Atlanta Daily World covering Washington and the president, but because he was black, he was not permitted to attend the presidential press briefings. In the 1940s black editors and… Continue reading »

Valaida 1
Jazz performer and pioneer Louis Armstrong called her the “second best trumpet player” in the world; Armstrong placed himself first.  Valaida Snow was born into a show business family in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her mother taught Valaida and her siblings to perform, and from a young age, Valaida showed great… Continue reading »

color Moms Mabley
Moms was a first; no previous stand-up female comedian preceded Mabley First woman comedian to be featured at the Apollo Theater (1930s); she went on to appear there more times than any other performer. Oldest person to have a song on the Top 40 Billboard chart. Her… Continue reading »

Cotton Candy booth
Had a true photographer’s eye for capturing people doing everyday things; took more than 80,000 images during his career, mostly of daily life in Pittsburgh but also of presidents, celebrities, and civil rights leaders. Known as “One-Shot”Harris, he was skilled at making subjects feel comfortable and rarely… Continue reading »

This Day in History

On January 30, 1933, The Lone Ranger debuted on Detroit’s WXYZ radio station. The “masked rider of the plains” was created by Detroit station owner George Trendle and writer Fran Striker, and the program was to go on to great success on radio and later on television and in the movies.  The Lone Ranger never smoked, swore, or drank alcohol; he used grammatically correct speech free of slang; and, most important, he never shot to kill.  However, today his sidekick, the Indian scout Tonto, is well-recognized as a politically incorrect depiction of a Native American.


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