World War One Centennial Commission project to feature African American experience in Great War
WASHINGTON, December 21, 2014 – The World War One Centennial Commission announces that it has undertaken a memorandum of understanding with S&D Consulting Services to produce The 369th Experience, a series of public performances and education programs depicting the American, African American, and French experience in World War One through the eyes of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the "Harlem Hellfighters."
The production is an official project of the Commission in line with its charge to educate the people of the United States about the history of World War One, the United States' involvement in that war, and the war's effects on the remainder of the 20th century, and to commemorate and honor the participation of the United States and its citizens in the war.
The three proposed productions will feature music honoring the bravery of the 369th's solidarity and bravery in the face of stateside prejudice as well as European battle, as well as the contributions of the 369th's regimental band in disseminating and winning hearts for the then-emerging art form of jazz.
"On the battlefield, the storied 369th Infantry Regiment or 'Harlem Hellfighters' valorously fought both the enemy and racial prejudice, eradicating the prevailing notion that African-Americans were not fit to fight. The regimental band, led by Lieutenant James Reese Europe and Drum Major Noble Sissle introduced jazz to Europe, and influenced the musical arts on both sides of the Atlantic. It is fitting that we should introduce a new generation of Americans to these heroes on the anniversary of their accomplishments" said Commission Chairman Colonel Robert J. Dalessandro, USA (Ret).
Dr. Julian E. White, retired director of the renowned Florida A&M University Marching 100 band, will recreate the band's complete repertoire. Dr. White is currently Director of Music Outreach for Goodwill Industries, Inc. and Consultant Clinician for Duvall County Public Schools in Jacksonville, FL. The new band will be comprised of 65 music students competitively selected from Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) across the nation.
"It is truly my honor to participate in The 369th Experience," said Dr. White. "I look forward to introducing the students to the music of that era and recreating some of the magic that the Harlem Hellfighters were known for."
The 369th Experience will include performances of “Charleston Olio”, a new musical featuring TONY Award-winner Phylicia Rashad, and “Jazz for a New Century”, a concert performance to be held at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Under the agreement, S&D Consulting will be solely responsible for all aspects of production as well as all financial responsibility for production, performers, musicians, venues, and additional project vendors.
About the 369th Infantry in World War One: The 369th Experience takes its name from the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as the Harlem Hellfighters. In April 1918, the unit was assigned to the French Army for the duration of World War One. Although these American soldiers faced racial prejudice while training in South Carolina, the French welcomed them as comrades.
The men served in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and captured the village of Séchault, for which the French government awarded the unit the Croix de Guerre with silver star. Men from the 369th earned two Medals of Honor and several Distinguished Flying Crosses.
The 369th’s regimental band became noted throughout Europe and introduced the new jazz music to Europeans. After the unit’s return to the United States, on February 17, 1919, the band paraded through New York City, displaying its patriotism for all Americans to see.
About World War One: World War One was fought between July 28, 1914, and November 11, 1918. Sixteen million combatants and civilians lost their lives. The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917. While the first American fatalities in the war occurred November 3, 1917, the most intense period of American fighting along the Western Front occurred from late May to November 11, 1918. More than 116,000 American soldiers and sailors died during the war – more than in Korea and Vietnam combined.
About the World War One Centennial Commission: The Commission was created by the U.S. Congress in January 2013 by Public Law 112–272. Its twelve members are appointed by the President, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the National World War One Museum in Kansas City. The Commission's mission is to educate the people of the United States about the history of World War One, the United States' involvement in that war, and the war's effects on the remainder of the 20th century, and to commemorate and honor the participation of the United States and its citizens in the war. For more information, visit our website at www.worldwar1centennial.org.