Covington Latin student wins McConnell Center essay contest

(Aug. 26, 2020) By GlyptusAnn Grider Jones
Covington Latin student wins McConnell Center essay contest

Sergeant Henry Lincoln Johnson, 369th Infantry ("Harlem Hellfighters"). Photo by Private Needham Roberts, 1918. Public domain.

Jay Kroger, a junior at Covington Latin High School, is the winner of the McConnell Center's summer essay contest on American heroes.

In his winning essay, Kroger wrote about Henry Johnson, an African American soldier in WWI who suffered 21 wounds and rescued a soldier while fighting off an enemy raid in the Argonne Forest in 1918. Despite his heroic acts, Johnson faced racism within the U.S. military and following his discharge, dying 11 years later poor and in obscurity.

Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S. military in 2002. On June 2, 2015, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Johnson the Medal of Honor.

“[Johnson] is an inspiration to me and to others because heroes, no matter their skin color, are stronger than their opposition, whether it be an enemy on the battlefield or prejudice at home," Kroger wrote.

Kroger will receive a commemorative plaque, a signed (by the editors) copy of Hero Tales from American History and be featured on an upcoming episode of McConnell Center Podcast.

Hannah Knox, Kroger's social studies/history teacher, will receive a free set of McConnell Center educational resources.

Sponsored by the McConnell Center's Civic Education Program, the summer essay contest was based on the center's edition of Hero Tales from American HistoryOriginally published in 1895, the book highlights 26 stories of heroism selected by authors Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt for individuals' bravery supporting their families, communities and country.