...Negro Music That Stirred France
Recognition of the Value of Music by the U. S. War Department---The Patriotic Music of Colored Americans----Lieutenant James Europe and His Famous "Jazz" Band,----Other Leaders and Aggregations of Musicians---Enthusiasm of the French People and Officials for American Music as Interpreted by These, Colored Artists and Their Bandsmen.
"You cannot defeat a singing nation," a keen-witted observer has said, in noting the victory spirit engendered by the martial music, the patriotic songs and the stirring melodies of hearth and home that have moved the souls of men to action on all the battlefields of history.
"Send me more singing regiments," cabled General Pershing, and Admiral Mayo sent frequent requests that a song leader organize singing on every battleship of the Atlantic Fleet.
Since "the morning stars sang together" in Scriptural narrative, music has exerted a profound influence upon mankind, be it in peace or in war, in gladness or in sorrow, or in the tender sentiment that makes for love of country, affection for kindred or the divine passion for "ye ladye fair." Music knows no land or clime, no season or circumstance, and no race, creed or clan. It speaks the language universal, and appeals to all peoples with a force irresistible, and no training in ethics or science is necessary to reach the common ground that its philosophy instinctively creates in the human understanding.
The War Department was conscious of this and gave practical application to its theory that music makes a soldier "fit to fight" when it instituted, through the Commission on Training Camp Activities, a systematic program of musical instruction throughout the American Army at the home cantonments and followed up the work overseas. It was the belief that every man became a better warrior for freedom when his mind could be diverted from the dull routine of camp life by arousing his higher nature by song, and that he fared forth to battle with a stouter heart when his steps were attuned to the march by bands that drove out all fear of bodily danger and robbed "grim-visaged war" of its terrors. Skilled song leaders were detailed to the various camps and cantonments here and abroad, and bands galore were brought into service for inspiration and cheer.
The emotional nature of the Negro fitted him for this musical program. The colored American was a "close up" in every picture from the start to the finish and was a conspicuous figure in every scenario, playing with credit and distinction alike in melody or with the musket.
No instrumentality was more potent than music in offsetting the propaganda of the wily German agents, who sought to break down the loyalty of the Negro. The music he knew was intensely American-in sentiment and rhythm. It saturated his being---and all the blandishments of the enemy were powerless to sway him from the flag he loved. His grievances were overshadowed by the realization that the welfare of the nation was menaced and that his help was needed. American music harmonized with the innate patriotism of the race, and the majestic sweep of "The Star-Spangled Banner" or the sympathetic appeal of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," were sufficient to counteract the sinister efforts of the missionaries of the Hohenzollerns to move him from his moorings.
No labor is ever so onerous that it can bar music from the soul of black folk. This race sings at work, at play and in every mood. Visitors to any army camp found the Negro doing musical "stunts" of some kind from reveille to taps---every hour, every minute of the day. All the time the trumpeters were not blowing out actual routine bugle calls, they were somewhere practicing them. Mouth-organs were going, concertinas were being drawn back and forth, and guitars, banjos, mandolins and whatnot were in use---playing all varieties of music, from the classic, like "Lucia," "Poet and Peasant," and "Il Trovatore" to the folk-songs and the rollicking "jazz." Music is indeed the chiefest outlet of the Negro's emotions, and the state of his soul can best be determined by the type of melody he pours forth.
Some writer has said that a handful of pipers at the head of a Scotch regiment could lead that regiment down the mouth of a cannon. It is not doubted that a Negro regiment could be made to duplicate the "Charge of the Light Brigade" at Balaklava----"into the mouth of hell," as Tennyson puts it, if one of their regimental bands should play--as none but a colored band can play, the vivacious strains of "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight."
The Negro's love of home is an integral part of his nature, and is exemplified in the themes he plaintively crooned in camp on both sides of the ocean. Such melodies as "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia," "My Old Kentucky Home," "In the Evening by de Moonlight," and "Suwanee River" recalled memories of the "old folks at home," and kept his patriotism alive, for he hoped to return to them some day and swell their hearts with pride by reason of the glorious record he made at the front. The Negro is essentially religious, and his deep spiritual temperament is vividly illustrated by the joy he finds in "harmonizing" such ballads of ancient days as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, " "Steal Away to Jesus, " "Standin' in the Need of Prayer," "Every Time I Feel the Spirit," "I Wan' To Be Ready," and "Roll, Jordan, Roll." The Negro is also an optimist, whether he styles himself by that high-sounding title or not, and the sincerity of his "make the best of it" disposition is noted in the fervor he puts into those uplifting gems, "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag" and "Smile, Smile, Smile," "There's a Long, Long Trail," "Keep the Home Fires Burning," and "Good-bye Broadway, Hello France."
Just as the Negro folk-songs-or songs of war, interpreted with ,the characteristic Negro flavor, stirred all France and gave poilu and populace a taste of the real American music, the marvelous "jazz bands" kept their feet patting and their shoulders "eagle-rocking" to its infectious motion. High officials are said to have been literally "carried away" with the "jazz" music furnished by the colored bands "over there" during the war. General Petain is said to have paid a visit, at the height of the hostilities, to a sector in which there were American troops and had "the time of his life" listening to a colored band playing the entrancing "jazz " music with some Negro dance stunts in keeping with the spirit of the melodies. He warmly congratulated the colored leader upon the excellence of the work of his organization, and thanked him for the enjoyable entertainment that had been given him. The stolid Briton is scarcely less susceptible to the "jazz" than his volatile French brother, for when another colored band from "The States went to London to head a parade of American and English soldiers, and halted at Buckingham Palace, it is said that King George V and Queen Mary heard the lively airs with undisguised enthusiasm and were loath to have the players depart for the park where they were scheduled for a concert, with a dance engagement, under British military control, to follow. The colored bands scored heavily with the three great Allied Powers of Europe by rendering with a brilliant touch and matchless finish their national anthems, "God Save the Queen," "La Marseillaise" and the "Marcia Reale.
"Filling France Full of Jazz"
In an illuminating article, abounding in wit and . calling for descriptive powers far out of the ordinary, Mr. Charles Welton, in The World Magazine, New York City, March 30, 1919, using the unique title in the subhead above, tells much of interest concerning the experiences of Lieutenant James Reese Europe and his 369th Regiment Band, which is said to have "jazzed its way through France" and filled up all the vacant spaces in "No Man's Land" with the remnants of notes broken by shells and shrapnel as the one hundred master "jazzers" forced their lines to the very banks of the Rhine, where the world woke up and found them on the day the armistice was signed. Mr. Welton not only gives a clever recital of the way the Europe aggregation "jazzed," but pictures quite realistically the enthusiasm of the French people and the army officials for American music of this new type, as interpreted by these colored artists.
The writer tells engagingly the story of how "Jim" Europe spent his early boyhood on his native heath, Mobile, Alabama, consorting with fiddles and improvised musical instruments until he became acquainted with an upright piano, helped on by a father who was himself something of a sound manipulator on all kinds of "contraptions." Outgrowing his Mobile environs, or "down in 'the sticks'" as some facetious Northerners are fond of styling the South, the youngster migrated to Washington, where he rapidly advanced in all branches of music and learned to play upon practically every instrument known to an orchestra or brass band and became a director of musical organizations, vocal and instrumental,
One of Lieut. Europe's particular friends and admirers was Col. William Hayward, who had fostered the development of the 15th New York Regiment throughout its long struggle for recognition as an integral part of the New York National Guard, and at the entrance of the United States into the war, Col. Hayward became the proud commander of the recruited and accepted '115th," officially known as the 369th United States Infantry, which later achieved international fame as "Hell Fighters" and led the Allied van to the Rhine as the curtain fell upon the greatest tragedy in the annals of the world.
Illustrations in Chapter XXI
How Europe and His "Jazz Outfit" Broke Into the War
Following up the meteoric career of "Jim" Europe, Mr. Welton goes on to say:
"Then the war broke out, and Europe broke in. If he had been built that way, he could have ducked it and stayed in town with his bank deposits; but he couldn't figure it. He told Col. Hayward that he was ready to follow or even go ahead of the flag to the last ounce of jazz, and there were ninety-nine others like him. So the band was signed up and sworn in, and Daniel C. Reid and some others made a pool of enough thousands of dollars to supply instruments that would stand the wear and tear of war and not go bad if dented up with shrapnel and such like.
"Among the men who slipped into olive drab with the boss, come weal, come woe, were Sergeant Noble Sissle, who played the cornet like anything and knows all the tricks of drum majoring, and sings like a lark, and writes verses by the yard; Herbert and Steve, whistlers and oh! such drummers; Raphael Hernandez, baritone saxophoner; Ward Andrews, better known as Trombone Andrews; Elige Rijos, clarinetist, and Frank De Bronte, who next to Europe himself is called the king of Jazz. The rest of the band---the marimbapbones, the double B-flat helicons, the bunch of French horns and all the rest clear down to the cymbals, were manned by other eminent operators, making what is called a toot ensemble at once hope-reviving and awe-inspiring.
"To understand jazz, it is well to know that it isn't merely a series of uncontrollable spasms or outbursts of enthusiasm scattered through a composition and discharged on the four winds, first by one wing and then by another of the band. Of course if a player feels an attack of something which he believes to be a jazz novelty rumbling in his system it is not the Europe rule to make him choke it back and thus run the risk of cheating the world out of a good thing. Any player can try anything once. If it doesn't come out a fliv on harmony it can remain as a toot to be used whenever there's a place where it won't crowd regular notes over the bars.
"The basic fundamental of jazz, however, is created by means of a variety of cones inserted point down in the bells of the horns. These cones are of two kinds. One is of metal and the other of leather. The leather cones are usually soaked in water before the band goes out for a blow. The metal cones muffle and modify, the natural tones of the instruments and make them come across with new sound values.
"When a leather cone is wrung out and fitted into the vestibule of a horn, and the man back of the works contributes the best that is in him, it is somewhat difficult to explain what happens, in mere words. You get it with both ears, and almost see it. The cone being wet, the sound might be called liquefied harmony. It runs and ripples, then has a sort of choking sensation; next it takes on the musical color of Niagara Falls at a distance, and subsides to a trout brook nearby. The brassiness of the horn is changed, and there is sort of a throbbing nasal effect, half moan, half hallelujah. Get me?
"Having set this down, we may now land with the band at Brest, France.
"The first thing that Jim Europe's outfit did when it got ashore wasn't to eat. It wanted France to know that it was present, so it blew some plain ordinary jazz over the town. Twenty minutes before the 369th disembarked, Brest wasn't at all la-la, so to speak; but as soon as Europe had got to work, that part of France could see that hope wasn't entirely dead.
"From Brest the Europe outfit went to St. Nazaire, sowing jazz selections over the agricultural terrain and bunching bits of it in the cantons en route. There was a rest center at W. Nazaire. Europe went to the center of the center, and for two months all he had to do was to help the boys rest by providing a brand of soothing syrup. All the sects in all the sectors round about that had carfare commuted into town and lolled in the rest zone. The city council adopted resolutions and the prefect delivered an eulogium. right at Noble Sissle and the backstop of snare drums.
"A call for help from Aix-les-Bains took the band to that resort. It arrived just in time to capture the casino in a night attack. On all fronts at this time soldiers that had been dodging minenwerfers were buoyed by the promise that Jim Europe had enough jazz in stock to last until the war was over, over there. Troops suffering with aches were hurried down to Aix---honest, they were---and the band did the rest.
Equally Handy With Trombones or Machine Guns.
"Between concerts, so to express it, the 369th band would get from under the coils of horns, unsling its drums, and load up with machine guns and go into the deep and mussy trenches and practice on the unhappy wretches on the other side of no man's land. Europe himself was the first colored officer to rest elbows against a first-line trench in one of the uncomfortable bois countries. He did solo work with a machine gun forty times heavier than a trombone, and actually got it to working in syncopated time. If we ever have another war and it could be fought exclusively by syncopating, Jim Europe would have a Major General's rating.
The people everywhere turned out to hear the 369th Regimental Band, and its magic influence gave proof to the assertion by its devotees that "JAZZ WON THE WAR." The return of "Jim" Europe's band to America, when it led the imposing parade up Fifth Avenue February 17, 1919, the day the gallant 369th was welcomed home by a grateful nation, was an occasion that will live in history.
Sergeant Noble Sissle, who served as the regimental drum major of the 369th, is one of the musicians whose work has "stood out" in the estimation of the people on the other side of the water. Noble Sissle was reared in Indianapolis, Ind., which boasts of having furnished more real talent to the colored musical and dramatic world than any other spot on earth, and his father, Rev. George A. Sissle, was a one-time pastor of Simpson M. E. Chapel in the Hoosier capital, as well as prominent in ministerial circles at many points in Ohio and Kentucky. Young Sissle has won an enviable reputation as a tenor soloist, composer and pianist, and is regarded as one of Lieutenant Europe's most dependable aids, both in the Clef Club in New York and in the regimental band work overseas.
Sergeant Sissle has made a study of the effect of Yankee ragtime, as interpreted by the colored artists, on French audiences, and advantage may be taken of this opportunity to give a summary of his impressions, as prepared for interested friends "over here." It covers much heretofore unknown matter in connection with the marvelous 369th Infantry Band and the intricacies of ragtime or "jazz" construction in general. Sergeant Sissle wrote. in part, as follows:
"When our country was dance-mad a few years ago, we quite agreed with the popular Broadway song composer who wrote:
'Syncopation rules the nation
You can't get away from it.'
"But if you could see the effect our good old 'jazz' melodies have on the people of every race and creed you would change the word 'nation' quoted above to 'world.'
"Inasmuch as the press seems to have kept the public well 'informed of our band's effort to make the boys happy in this land where everybody speaks everything but English, I will endeavor to start off with a few notes concerning James Reese Europe, its organizer and conductor. This Lieutenant Europe is the same Europe whose orchestras are considered to have done a goodly share toward making syncopated music popular on Broadway. Having been associated with Lieutenant Europe in civil life during his 'jazz bombardment' on the delicate, classical, musical cars of New York's critics, and having watched 'The Walls of Jericho' come tumbling down, I was naturally curious to see what would be the effect of a 'real American tune,' as Victor Herbert calls our Southern syncopated tunes, as played by a real American band.
"At last the opportunity came, and it was at a town in France where there were no American troops, and our audience, with the exception of an American general and his staff, was all French people. I am sure the. greater part of the crowd had never heard a ragtime number. So what happened can be taken as a test of the success of our music in this country, where all is sadness and sorrow.
"The program started with a French march, followed by favorite overtures and vocal selections by our male quartette, all of which were heartily . applauded. The second part of the program opened with 'The Stars and Stripes Forever,' the great Sousa march, and before the last note of the martial ending had been finished the house was ringing with applause. Next followed an arrangement of 'Plantation Melodies' and then came the fireworks, 'The Memphis Blues.'
"Lieutenant Europe, before raising his baton, twitched his shoulders, apparently to be sure that his tight-fitting military coat would stand the strain, each musician shifted his feet, the players of brass horns blew the saliva from their instruments, the drummers tightened their drum-heads, every one settled back in their seats, half closed their eyes, and when the baton came down with a swoop that brought forth a soul-rousing crash both director and musicians seemed to forget their surroundings; they were lost in scenes and memories. Cornet and clarinet players began to manipulate notes in that typical rhythm (that rhythm which no artist has ever been able to put down on paper) ; as the drummers struck their stride their shoulders began shaking in time to their syncopated raps.
"Then, it seemed, the whole audience began to sway, dignified French officers began to pat their feet along with the American general, who, temporarily, had lost his style and grace. Lieutenant Europe was no longer the Lieutenant Europe of a moment ago, but once more Jim Europe, who a few months ago rocked New York with his syncopated baton. His body swayed in willowy motions and his head was bobbing as it did in days when tepsichorean festivities reigned supreme. He turned to the trombone players, who sat impatiently waiting for their cue to have a 'Jazz spasm,' and they drew their slides out to the extremity and jerked them back with that characteristic crack.
"The audience could stand it no longer; the 'Jazz germ' hit them, and it seemed to find the vital spot, loosening all muscles and causing what is known in America as an 'Eagle Rocking Fit.' 'There now,' I said to myself. 'Colonel Hayward has brought his band over here and started ragtimitis in France; ain't this an awful thing to visit upon a nation with so many burdens?' But when the band had finished and the people were roaring with laughter, their faces wreathed in smiles, I was forced to say that this is just what France needs at this critical moment.
"All through France the same thing happened. Troop trains carrying Allied soldiers from everywhere passed us en route, and every head came out of the window when we struck up a good old Dixie tune. Even German prisoners forgot they were prisoners, dropped their work to listen and pat their feet to the stirring American tunes.
"But the thing that capped the climax happened up in Northern France. We were playing our Colonel's favorite ragtime, 'The Army Blues,' in a little village where we were the first American troops there, and among the crowd listening to that band was an old lady about sixty years of age. To everyone's surprise, all of a sudden, she started doing a dance that resembled 'Walking the Dog.' Then I was cured, and satisfied that American music would some day be the world's music. While at Aix les Bains other musicians from American bands said their experiences had been the same.
"Who would think that little U. S. A. would ever give to the world a rhythm and melodies that, in the midst of such universal sorrow, would cause all students of music to yearn to learn how to play it? Such is the case, because every musician we meet---and they all seem to be masters of their instruments---are always asking the boys to teach them how to play ragtime. I sometimes think if the Kaiser ever heard a good syncopated melody he would not take himself so seriously.
"If France was well supplied with American bands, playing their lively tunes, I'm sure it would help a good deal in bringing home entertainment to our boys, and at the same time make the heart of sorrow-stricken France beat a deal lighter."
Sissle was made a Lieutenant before he returned with his regiment from overseas.
This resumé of how Negro music thrilled France brings to mind an interesting and pathetic story of an experience in a little war-stricken town of the 369th Infantry Band and its agile drum major---this same Noble Sissle. After the band had finished its output of "Army Blues," etc., the program shifted to plantation melodies, and the auditors were literally overcome by the power of the songs, which were sung as only Negroes can sing them.
Dr. R. R. Moton used to say in his Tuskegee Talks that "the white people can beat the Negro doing a great many things, but there is one thing at which no white man can beat the Negro, and that is in the singing of Negro songs."
The closing piece on this occasion was "Joan of Arc," rendered by Drum Major Sissle, in a beautiful rich baritone. He sang it first in English and then in excellent French. It will be remembered that this Joan of Arc was the "Maid of Orleans" that came as a mysterious child from the womb of destiny to liberate the French at a time when their national existence hung in the balance, and her memory is revered throughout France as a patron saint. As Drum Major Sissle sang, the people wept. One bewhiskered peasant, an elderly man, with tears streaming down his age-hardened cheeks, rushed up to this man of color, an apostle of liberty, ---a man with many wrongs, but like the "Man of Galilee," willing to forget---and strenuously attempted to throw his arms around the neck of the singer and kiss him.
The 350th Field Artillery Band
The 350th Field Artillery Band, led by Lieutenant J. Tim Brymm, of Philadelphia, won fame in France, and received a royal welcome upon its return home in March, after an absence of about a year. The band has about 70 soloists, recruited "from the four corners of the earth," as its organizer, General Fred T. Austin, facetiously puts it. The organization returned to Philadelphia under flattering auspices, and Lieutenant Brymm, who has won distinction as a composer, had two new offerings for the home-coming reception, "The Philadelphia Sunday Blues," a glittering "jazz" concert, and the "Dieulouard Glide, "the latter a fox-trot composed by Lieutenant Brymm as descriptive of an artillery bombardment. It depicts the course of a heavy artillery shell from the beginning of its flight to its explosion, and was composed during one of the regiment's fiercest artillery duels. Lieutenant Brymm has given the country hundreds of popular song hits, the best-known of which is perhaps "Please Go 'Way and Let Me Sleep," which had quite a vogue some years ago.
Among the thousands of appreciative welcomers that packed the Academy of Music was Mme. Ernestine Schumann-Heink, the famous operatic contralto, who has evinced deep interest in a number of aspiring colored composers, and who is styled "the godmother of the 350th band," and its chief sponsor. Some wag has described Tim Brymm's Band as "a military symphony engaged in a battle of jazz." Lieutenant Brymm also did excellent work as leader of the band of the 349th Field Artillery for quite an extended period, and brought it up to a high standard.
Other Regimental Bands, That "Made Good" in France
Other bands that made a record in France, and whose experiences were much the same as those chronicled with reference to the bands of the 369th Infantry and 350th Field Artillery were: The 368th Infantry Band, directed by Lieutenant A. Jack Thomas; the parade at Baltimore before going overseas afforded President and including Edgar Landin, the drum major whose evolutions in Wilson and his party so much solid enjoyment;
The 370th Infantry (the "Old Eighth Illinois" Regiment) Band, directed by Lieutenant George E. Dulf;
The 349th and 351st Field Artillery and the 365th, 366th and 367th Regiments of Infantry all had bands that gave a splendid account of themselves on both sides of the ocean.
Several of these unique organizations toured the country shortly, after their return from overseas, visiting many of the principal cities, an were accorded the warmest kind of a reception everywhere arrangements were made for their appearance. Their work was inspirational to the last degree. The band of the 370th Infantry (Eighth Illinois) scored heavily throughout the North and East, with the celebrated coloratura soprano, Mme. Anita Patti Brown, of Chicago, as prima donna and soloist.
Among the bands that have done good work in this country, the 16th Battalion Band of the Minnesota Home Guards, under the leadership of William H. Howard, is warmly praised in the Northwest. Mr. Howard was commissioned as a First Lieutenant. He is a native of Baltimore and for several years conducted one of the leading musical studios in Minneapolis.
Some of the Song Leaders
The song leaders who trained the soldier lads in mass singing in the home camps contributed largely to the morale of the army and their labors, rendered in many instances at a heavy personal sacrifice, are deserving of the highest commendation. They made camp life happy, when the hearts of the men were sad from homesickness, and every task was made lighter by the song that accompanied it. In Y. M. C. A. huts, in the open field, and as the boys whiled away the time in the highways and byways of the camp area, the song leaders were on deck and had them humming some care-destroying melody which brought a silver lining to the threatening clouds. Of these leaders, J. E. Blanton, Max Weinstein and William C. Elkins, deserve especial mention.
Service Rendered Colored Soldiers by Mrs. Baker
Among the remembrances of the war period are the visits of Mrs. Newton D. Baker, the wife of the Secretary of War, who sang in the camps and cantonments and the clubs of the War Camp Community Service, and in various city auditoriums. The appearances of Mrs. Baker at Howard University, at Dunbar High School, at War Camp Community Club No. 3, Camp Meade and other places near Washington, where soldiers and civilians were stationed, were most welcome "breaks" in the daily routine of the soldiers. Her singing always met with an enthusiastic reception, commingling in her selections the military, the folk-song and the ballad of heart-appeal, and the insistent demands for more, despite the extraordinary draft upon her patience and powers, were responded to in a measure that was generous to the last degree. She enjoyed her faculty of giving joy to others, and it cannot be doubted that Mrs. Baker's talents as a singer, and her rare capacity for cheering white and colored Americans "to do their best, whate'er befide," exerted a potent influence toward the winning of the war.
It was arranged with the War Camp Community Service that J. E. Blanton, of the Penn School, should go from camp to camp, leading the men in the singing of the spirituals, teaching them the "Hymn of Freedom," written by Mrs. Burlin, a student of Negro hymn-songs, and exerting his influence in sustaining the morale which has ever characterized the colored troops. The plan was heartily endorsed by Secretary of War Baker, who, in a letter written to Mr. Peabody, said:
"I am quite sure that you are not overestimating the effect of these spirituals. Indeed, there is a certain cadence to these songs which is quite unattainable in any music with which I am acquainted, and I have little doubt that the white soldiers will be singing them as eagerly and effectively as the colored men before we get very far with it. "
In an interesting article in The Outlook magazine, Miss Grant makes note of the fact that the use of these spirituals was not restricted to colored camps. The " Hymn of Freedom," for instance, she says, has been sung in white churches, schools and service clubs and by choral organizations connected with the war in different parts of the country, thus justifying the hope that the noble old Negro melody would become a bond of sympathy between the races. The statement is made that the writing of the words was in part prompted by Mrs. Burlin's belief that "the artistic utterance of the Negro, which has so important a place in the music of America, might help to build a bridge of understanding between the races, spanning the chasm of prejudice."
These songs, many of the titles of which have been quoted throughout this chapter on Negro music, along with the hundreds of patriotic war melodies by our skilled composers of the modern school, were carried to France by the colored troops, and toward the close of the conflict they found an additional champion in Dr. Moton, himself an unrivaled interpreter of the "spiritual," who went abroad at the request of President Wilson and Secretary Baker to assist in safeguarding the welfare of the black soldiers on the battle fronts.
Miss Grant is firm in the belief that the work of promoting the folk-song, with its accompanying Americanism, has suggestion for the future in the nation's dealing with the Negro, and the solution of what has come to be known as the "race problem." Her admirable article closes with a quotation from Mrs. Burlin, in the sentiment of which she concurs most heartily:
"Through toil and suffering song has kept the heart of the Negro still unembittered; through prejudice and misunderstanding it has upheld him; through the stress and sacrifice of this white man's war it has cheered him on. And, those who recognize its power are surely not wrong in feeling that in the inspired music of the black man lie a prophecy of the possibilities of the race and an earnest plea for that democracy at home which cannot be won by bomb or bullet, but by sympathy and understanding and a realization of the contribution which each race can make to the civilization of the world."
Some of the Compositions That Counted
Thousands of creditable compositions, vocal and instrumental, marches, duets, quartets and choruses, have been brought out by gifted colored musicians throughout the land. Of the long list of such compositions, a song "The Colored Soldier Boys of Uncle Sam," by W. J. Nickerson, of New Orleans, Louisiana, dedicated to the colored soldiers of the U. S. A., occupies a conspicuous place. The music is in march time, and has a lively step and a resonant swing that gives it an especial appeal to all who appreciate the combination of classic style with the sprightliness of the melodies that make movement their chief function. The words of this meritorious production are also by Mr. Nickerson, and they carry a sentiment that is at once eloquent and convincing in their patriotism.
"There'll be no stop, 'till we're over the top,
We're the colored boys of Uncle Sam!"
Mr. Nickerson's inspiring war song acquired a large measure of popularity through its use by Mine. Anita Patti Brown, prima donna soprano, in the nation-wide concert tour of the 8th Regiment (or 370th) shortly after the signing of the armistice.
The Negro troops of Camp Shelby composed a song of their own and dedicated it to their military cantonment. The men at this camp were all Southern born, and the theme bore strongly upon their attachment to the land in which they first saw the light and their comprehension of the joys of army life. The hymn was entitled "Glory, Glory to Old Shelby," and was sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
Miss Nannie G. Board, a young colored woman of Louisville, Kentucky, won first place in a contest for producing the best original war song, securing this laurel in competition with a field of contestants nearly all white. The contest was conducted by the United War Work Campaign Committee of the State of Kentucky. Miss Board graduated from Howard University and became a teacher in the State Agricultural and Industrial Institute, Nashville, Tennessee.
After all is said of the mesmeric influence of Negro music upon France, and of the high-grade morale maintained in camps and communities over here through its magic wand, the world is impressed with the thought that melody is indeed the common tongue of mankind, and that the Negro-American music that filled the hills and dales overseas has forged a link of international friendship that will last for all time, and has built up a spirit of fellowship and cameraderie between the races, white and black, that will lay the foundation of an enduring human brotherhood throughout the earth.
Chapter XXII. The Negro in the Service of Supply
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