Update: WordPress found me this article about James Reese Europe, one of the Harlem Hellfighters, on blackmail4u.com. Europe was an eminent musician and New York City club owner who played an important part in nourishing African American music and culture. I love synchronicity! A link to a video of one of Lt Europe’s compositions, On Patrol in No Man’s Land, is embedded at the end of my post. Thank You Blackmail4u Special Delivery!!
I have the coolest book in my stacks. Well, I have a lot of the coolest books in my stacks. But I sat down with this one today. From Harlem to the Rhine: The Story of New York’s Colored Volunteers by Arthur W. Little, copyright 1936. Little created this detailed and well written history from his first hand experiences, as detailed in his own war diary.
The author details the abuse and threat the African American soldiers suffered on their own American home soil before they even left for the war. Little goes on to catalog in clear and unexaggerated prose these soldiers’ bravery, resourcefulness, great strength of character, senses of humor and musical talents. They endured great privation and danger within the warzone and without. They served our country with the greatest of bravery and honor.
The “Men of Bronze”, Harlem’s Hell Fighters, one of the great fighting units in the the shock division of Gourard’s Fourth Army of France, are well represented here and I am grateful. Many black and white photo illustrations are included, courtesy of Major Gourard himself and of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The book is indexed and contains appendices of letters and military communication.
I consider From Harlem to the Rhine a primary source on World War I history, African American History and a deeply affecting book. Our popular / mass media and education system still has not gotten the memo that white Europeans were not the only key players in our history and culture. It chaps my book loving a– er, my book loving cheeks. The only thing I wish is that we had narrative from the soldiers themselves. Works like this are ever so important to help remedy the ‘colorblindness’ that erases the immense contributions offered and trauma endured by our brothers and sisters of nonwhite ethnicity since the birth of this nation and continuing today. We are not color blind. We are colluding with the whiteout. Books like this can help us right the wrongs done by our dominant and oppressive culture.