Who was the first African-American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor?
William Carney was the first African-American recipient.
He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on July 18, 1863 at Fort Wagner, S.C. while a member of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in the Civil War — the state's first all-black regiment. During the disastrous battle at Ft. Wagner, Carney noticed that the man who carried the flag had been wounded.
So Carney bravely rescued the flag and carried it for him. He delivered it safely to his regiment and reportedly shouted "Boys, the old flag never touched the ground." Carney was wounded during the battle but was not killed.
After the war he spent 31 years working for the postal service. Finally, in May 1900, Carney became the first African-American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. His brave deed is depicted on the Saint-Gaudens Monument in Boston and the rescued flag is enshrined in Memorial Hall, also in Boston.
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