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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: NY State Archives: 369th records

Hi Lee:

I'm sending a note to the NY State library ask them if there is another simpler easier way to do this.

How did I find the page? A colleague of mine in the French Veterans Association told me about the database. Why did they hide it so well? I don’t know but I was determined to find one particular soldier. Let me explain why.

The wonderful bonus of collaborating with visitors to Afrigeneas is that you learn to question everything, are open to all avenues of research and realize that history touched everyone. Our ancestors…everyone is linked to history.

One of my pro-bono clients was the 369th. My interest is in their WWI history and their historical connection to France. I'm an admitted Francophile thanks to my parents who lived in Europe and spent many holidays and weekends there. They treasured those years away from the segregated US and passed their love of France and its history on to me. One of the 369th soldiers became a famous expatriate musician and as a child was a student at the legendary Daniel Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston S.C. My family friendship with Arthur Briggs spanned three generations.

Last week I was in Charleston and gave a presentation at the Avery Research Center on my family history and its links to the Daniel Jenkins Orphanage, Avery and jazz in Europe and South America. The connection to the 369th was one focus of my paper. Finding Arthur in the Harlem Hellfighters’ muster rolls, some of the Puerto Rican musicians was my inspiration for my digging into the New York State archives. Eugene Mikell of Charleston and a teacher at the Orphanage was also the assistant band leader in the 369th

It's always been a mystery to me why bandleader James Reese Europe (born in Mobile) would travel to Puerto Rico to find musicians “because there weren't enough in Harlem”. I’ve always doubted that explanation and others similar to the above. There were certainly musicians in Harlem and its environs. Mikell and the Jenkins Orphange were in England at the outbreak of WWI. Lee Badger’s biography of Europe, “A Life in Ragtime” is a well written and fascinating read.

The link below will take you to a profile of James Reese Europe.

The main link will connect you to music of the Harlem Hellfighters. There are claims that the 369th were the first to bring jazz to Europe. Jazz historians beg to differ. (I agree). Some of the songs played by the band in France was “The Saint Louis Blues” and “The Memphis Blues” by W.C. Handy. Handy’s arranger for those songs was Jean Paul Wyer of Pensacola, Florida. Click on the songs and you will hear the original recordings.

So Lee, I hope you understand my aggressive research into the muster rolls of the 369th Regiment. There are so many connections to our rich historical past.

K Wyer Lane

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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