James Reese Europe and Jazz
Transported to Europe by African American regimental bands and troops, jazz took France by storm. Few individuals could claim more credit for this result than Washington, D.C., native and noted composer-arranger-conductor James Reese Europe, who led the 369th Infantry Regimental Band. Europe's band, which consisted of Puerto Rican and African American musicians, including famed singer-songwriter Nobel Sissle, helped to spread one of America's unique cultural contributions to the world. Simultaneously these bands worked to undo racial segregation by bringing Europeans and white and black Americans into common appreciation of the new musical form. The French, in particular, warmed to jazz. As Charles Hamilton Houston wrote in his diary: "Paris is taken away with [Jazz] and our style of dancing. The girls come after the boys in taxis and beg them to go to the dance. Colored boys are all the go."