New York State Office of General ServicesNew York State Office of General Services -
The Vietnam Memorial Gallery
The Bandleader Who Changed America
A Musical Journey Through the Life of James Reese Europe
October 4, 2018 | 6:30 p.m.
Swyer Theatre, The Egg
FREE EVENT- No tickets required.
Through the use of photos, film, and live music, this multimedia presentation will focus on the life and music of James Reese Europe (1880-1919), an extraordinary individual who was not only instrumental in the success of the Harlem Hellfighters, an African-American military regiment from New York that was dispatched to fight for France in World War I, but had a major influence in the development of jazz, swing, and contemporary dance music. Featuring special guests Michael Dinwiddie, associate professor at New York University’s Gallatin School and William Meckley, founder and music director of the Empire Jazz Orchestra, this special evening will also include a musical demonstration and performance by jazz pianist and composer David Gleason, highlighting the history of early jazz music and Europe’s profound impact as a bandleader. Sponsored by JDog Junk Removal & Hauling.
Authorized in 1913, the 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly known as the 15th Infantry of the New York National Guard, was the first African American regiment of the New York National Guard. Having no prior combat experience, the regiment based in Harlem consisted of African American men from all over New York State and Puerto Rico.
After serving 191 days of combat in France, longer than any American regiment of World War I, the German army nicknamed the soldiers “Hellfighters” due to their actions on the battlefield. Facing discrimination at home and possessing a passion to demonstrate their worth as an African American military regiment, the 369th transformed into an accomplished unit—one whose legacy left an indelible mark on music and cultures worldwide.
This legacy has had a lasting impact on African Americans’ participation in impending conflicts post-World War I; especially notable is the Vietnam War which officially marked the first-time African Americans served in fully integrated combat units.