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Harlem Hellfighter Band with Lt. James R. Europe

The “Harlem Hellfighter” band, the most famous band in the American Army during World War One, was led by the famous ragtime and jazz bandleader, Lt. James Reese Europe. He was instrumental in recruiting new members to the 15th NY National Guard Regiment when America declared war on Germany in April 1917. He and his band members would march down Fifth Avenue in Harlem and play famous tunes like “The Memphis Blues” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” in order to motivate the local men to join. The band also recruited members from several states and Puerto Rico. They played to French military and civilian audiences across France. They helped introduce jazz to an eager French populous. Many African American musicians moved to Paris after the World War. Read more about the band, the Hellfighters and jazz in “The Reluctant Soldier.”

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