James Reese Europe in Paris
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.