Press/Journalists
Press Release
January 12, 1998
Featured Document Honors Black History Month

Washington, D.C. . . . In honor of Black History Month, the National Archives and Records Administration will feature a special document display of a letter describing the brave deeds that earned four African Americans the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Spanish-American War. The letter from 1st Lt. C.P. Johnson to Maj. W.H. Carter, dated February 18, 1899, is from the records of the Adjutant Generalís Office, 1780's-1917.

The display is free and will open to the public on Monday, February 2, 1998, in the Rotunda, and will remain on view through Thursday, February 26, 1998. The National Archives Rotunda is located on Constitution Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, and is open seven days a week, 10 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. The public may call (202) 501-5000 for more information.

On February 15, 1898, the explosion of the U.S. battleship Maine in the harbor at Havana, Cuba, killed 260 of her crew and aggravated existing tensions between the United States and Spain over Cuba and potential domination in the Caribbean. Two months after the event occurred, America and Spain were at war. The cause of the explosion was never determined, however it influenced the United States to declare war against Spain. As a result of the Spanish-American War, the United States acquired a military foothold in the Caribbean, obtained possessions in the Far East, and was established as an emerging world power.

The war continued a long tradition of military service for African Americans. It marked the first time, however, that they had participated as a free people in a conflict against a foreign power. The letter on display describes the "conspicuous bravery" of four African Americans in the Spanish-American War. As their lieutenant describes it, "these men obeyed my instructions and pulled unhesitatingly for the shore, picked up the wounded who were hiding in the water and successfully returned to the ship." For their bravery, they earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Two other African Americans in the conflict also were awarded the medal.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or e-mail public.affairs@nara.gov.

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