1918: The Harlem Hellfighters

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By Tom Meyers and Bowery Boys Media. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

On February 17, 1919, in the waning months of World War I, the Harlem Hellfighters – officially the 369th Infantry Regiment, originally a New York National Guard division that had just come from intense battle in France – marched up Fifth Avenue to an unbelievable show of support and love.

The Hellfighters were comprised of young African-American men from New York City and the surrounding area, its enthusiastic recruits made up of those who had arrived in the city during a significant period of population migration from the Reconstruction South to (only slightly) more tolerant Northern cities.

They were not able to serve in regular American military units because of segregation, but because of an unusual series of events, the regiment instead fought alongside the French in the trenches, for 191 days in the year 1918, more than any other American unit during the war.

They became legends. They were known around the world for their valor, ferocity and bravery. This is the story of New York musicians, red caps, budding painters, chauffeurs and teenagers just out of school, serving their country in a way that would become legendary.

FEATURING the voices of World War I veterans telling their own stories. PLUS some brilliant music and a story from Barack Obama (okay it’s just a clip of the former president but still.)

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