By Alexsandra Mitchell
In the midst of chaos and war, there is peace and joy through music!
This image from the NLM’s collections features James Reese Europe, the African American band-leader and champion of jazz and ragtime music, in action during World War I with his “Harlem Hellfighters.”Otherwise known at the 369th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army, the “Harlem Hellfighters” were the first all-African American and Puerto Rican regiment in the U.S. Army.
Europe’s band traveled throughout France during the war, providing entertainment to Allied troops. He worked tirelessly with the highly-skilled musicians who joined his band, and he even traveled to Puerto Rico himself to hand-select the island’s best musicians.
Here, Europe’s band entertains soldier-patients, doctors, nurses, and others at the American Red Cross Hospital Number 5, in Paris, providing a dose of music as medicine that was very likely a soothing moment for everyone who was present.
Alexsandra Mitchell is a 2013 Association of Research Libraries Career Enhancement Program Fellow within the History of Medicine Division and a Brooklyn based international research scholar.