As an American ragtime and early jazz bandleader, arranger and composer, Lt. James Reese Europe made military and music history in 1918 by being the first African American to lead troops into battle during World War I, as he spread the “jazz germ” throughout Europe. Lt. Europe saw combat with the 369th Infantry Regiment, the “Harlem Hellfighters,” the band he directed to great acclaim, where he obtained a Commission in the New York Army National Guard.
The event begins at 1 p.m. with a screening of Men of Bronze, a film by William Miles that tells the definitive story of the black American soldiers of the 396th combat regiment, the “Harlem Hellfighters,” who served with the French Army in World War I. This unit spent more time in the front line trenches than any other American infantry unit. These men distinguished themselves in some of the fiercest battles of the Great War. The film is an inspiring tribute to these heroes through the use of photographs, interviews with veterans and film from the French and American National Archives.
The Soldiers of the 396th panel discussion will follow at 2 p.m. with the director, Marvin Haire and activist and co-founder of Periscope Associates, George Richardson.
From 4 to 5 p.m. guests will have a look at film clips of Lt. James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters with the James Reese Europe Film Retrospective.
The remainder of the evening will be spent with the Music of James Reese Europe. This will consist of a panel discussion looking at Europe's influence in France, along with the instruments used by the soldiers. A filmed-preview of Randy Weston performing a musical piece of James Reese Europe's music will take place, along with a question and answer session.
For more information on this FREE event, visit the Tribeca Performing Arts Center site.