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When the United States entered World War I in 1917, thousands of African-American men volunteered to fight for a country that granted them only limited civil rights. Many from New York City joined the 15th N.Y. Infantry, a National Guard regiment later designated the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment. Before the war was over, the unit would make military -- and musical -- history. In America's segregated military, the men of the 369th Infantry had to overcome many hurdles before they proved themselves on the battlefield. Led by mostly inexperienced white and black officers, they not only received little instruction at their training camp in South Carolina but were frequent victims of racial harassment, from both civilians and their white comrades. Once in France, they initially served as laborers, all while chafing to prove their worth as American soldiers. Finally, they got their chance. The 369th became one of the few U.S. units that American commanding general John J. Pershing let serve under French command. Donning French uniforms and taking up French rifles, these men fought valiantly alongside French Moroccans and held one of the widest sectors on the Western Front.
They also played a key role in the Allies' climactic Meuse-Argonne offensive, earning the name "Hell Fighters" from their beleaguered German enemy. For their performance in combat, the entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the French government's highest military honor. When Harlem's Hell Fighters were not battling the enemy in the trenches, their regimental band was thrilling the French public with a revolutionary, uniquely American style-of music -- jazz. The band's conductor, Lt. James Reese Europe, had been one of the first African Americans to perform at Carnegie Hall. Europe convinced many of his musicians to volunteer for New York's black regiment, and this all-star band won the admiration of the French public, leaving an enduring cultural legacy. Stephen L. Harris's accounts of valor by individual soldiers make for exciting reading, and the story of James Reese Europe and his band is both inspirational and ultimately tragic. Harris has written an excellent work of military social history that captures the essence of the period and of these brave men's experience.
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Table of Contents
|List of Illustrations||ix|
|Prologue: Strength of the Nation||1|
|1||"We Have the Regiment"||9|
|2||Pancho Villa Rides to the Rescue||25|
|3||"The Color Line Will Not Be Drawn in This Regiment"||35|
|4||The Man Who Stood for Something||45|
|5||The Honor of the State||61|
|6||"I Will Startle the World"||70|
|7||"Black Is Not a Color of the Rainbow"||81|
|8||"Color, Blood, and Suffering Have Made Us One"||99|
|9||"The Man Has Kicked Us Right to France"||113|
|10||"Landed at Brest, Right Side Up!"||137|
|11||"This Pick and Shovel Work"||154|
|12||Ragtime in France||167|
|13||"God Damn, Le's Go!"||177|
|14||"He Can Go Some!"||194|
|15||"I Wish I Had a Brigade, Yes, a Division"||205|
|16||"There Was Nothing between the German Army and Paris Except My Regiment"||215|
|17||"Lieutenant, You Shot Me! You Shot a Good Man!"||231|
|18||"Shell-Shocked, Gassed, Sunk to the Verge of Delirium"||238|
|Epilogue: All Suns Had Gone Down||261|
|About the Author||302|