Harlem Hellfighters Honored 104 Years Ago Today

The Canadian Observer, was a newspaper and the voice of the Black community in Toronto, published by J.R.B Whitney from 1914 to 1919. The paper was rooted in the descendants of former American slaves who traveled the Underground Railroad to Canada – the Underground Railroad and the quest for freedom in Canada is a central theme in many of Accessible Archives’ African American newspapers.

Thousands of African Americans resided in Canada after the abolishment of slavery in the U.S. These African Americans established families, built homes, and formed communities, contributing to the development of the Canadian provinces they lived in as well as to the newly formed Dominion of Canada.

The article below, describes a reception given to the Harlem heroes of WW1:

Date: JULY 13, 1918

New York. N. Y.—More than twelve hundred persons attended the reception and supper given Thursday evening. June 27, at Harlem Casino, 116th street and Lenox avenue, by the Woman’s Auxiliary of the 15th Regiment in honor or the heroism of Privates Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts of the 369th Infantry, formerly the old 15th.

Enthusiasm ran high, and pandemonium broke loose when Fred R. Moore, editor of The New York Age, presented a largo silk flag, the gift or Theodore Roosevelt, to Miss S. Elisabeth Frazier, president of the auxiliary.

Among the speakers were Prof. Jesse C. Thomas of Denmark, S. C.; Prof. R. R. Wright of Savannah, Go.; the Rev. R. M. Bolden, and the Rev. George H. Sims, all of whom made patriotic addresses and praised the valor of the Negro soldier.

A poem, entitled “To Our Heroes ‘Over There,’” was read by Jesse D. Phillips, who wrote it in honor of Privates Johnson and Roberts. “Deacon” Johnson sang “He Draws No Color Line,” making his usual hit, and Arthur Rhone sang several elections The Clef Club Orchestra rendered Instrumental numbers entertainingly.

Telegrams and letters lauding Johnson and Roberts, were received from Colonel Roosevelt. Secretary of War Baker. Gov. Charles S. Whitman, Gov. Walter E. Edge, Mayor James N. Watt of Albany; Mayor Hylan, Mayor Frederick Donneely of Trenton; Principal Theobald of P. R. 15, hive August Belmont, Mrs. , chairman of co-operative. of the National League and Woman’s Service; Mrs. John H. Glenn, chairman of the Home Service Section of the American Red Cross; Hon H. P. Davison and Seward Prosser of the American Red Cross; the Rev. Hutchens C. Bishops, the Rev. W. H. Brookes and Mrs. S. W. Trouick.

The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. M. J. parents of Needham Roberts, and Mrs. Henry Johnson, wife of Private Johnson, were present and given a big ovation, whim introduced to the audience. The Rev. Mr. Roberts made a short talk, in which he declared that he, too, would light for this country if necessary. The Johnsons came from Albany to attend the reception.