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Jason Moran, John Akomfrah

James Reese Europe And The Absence Of Ruin

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Image credit: Lt James Reese Europe (left) and members of his 369th Infantry Regiment jazz band upon their return to the United States from Europe, New York, New York, February 12, 1919. The 369th was also known as the 'Harlem Hellfighters.' Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images

WWI Heritage / James Reese Europe

On February 17 1919, the 369th Infantry Regiment famously marched up Fifth Avenue and into Harlem before some 250,000 onlookers. A spirit of determination, inspired by the war, surged throughout black America.

W.E.B. Du Bois voiced such sentiment in the May 1919 Crisis editorial ‘Returning Soldiers’, declaring, “We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting. Make way for Democracy! We saved it in France, and by the Great Jehovah, we will save it in the United States of America, or know the reason why.” Words that echo down the decades.

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