Remembering the Harlem Hellfighters

Lonnie G. Bunch III, Museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, is proud to present a page from Our American Story, a regular online series for Museum supporters. It showcases individuals and events in the African American experience, placing these stories in the context of a larger story—our American story.

Remembering the Harlem Hellfighters

As the world prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I this November, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is shining a spotlight on the critical role played by the approximately 200,000 African Americans who served in Europe during the conflict, including roughly 42,000 of whom saw combat.

One of the most renowned units of African American combat troops was the highly decorated 369th Infantry Regiment—best known as the “Harlem Hellfighters”—heroes whose stories, until recently, had largely been forgotten.

Before setting out for Europe, the unit was refused permission to participate in the farewell parade of New York’s National Guard, known as the “Rainbow Division,” because “black is not a color in the rainbow.”

But after being assigned to fight under the 16th Division of the French Army—because many white American soldiers refused to serve with black soldiers—they quickly proved their bravery and combat skills.

The regiment was originally nicknamed the “Black Rattlers” for the rattlesnake insignia that adorned their uniforms, and they were called “Men of Bronze” by the French.

It is believed that their German foes were the first to dub them “Hellfighters” for their courage and ferocity.

World War I Croix de Guerre

World War I Croix de Guerre medal awarded to the 369th Infantry Regiment. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In one engagement two of the most celebrated members of the unit, Private Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts, fought off an entire German patrol despite being severely wounded and out of ammunition. After Roberts became incapacitated, Johnson ultimately resorted to using his bolo knife.

During the war, the Harlem Hellfighters spent more time in continuous combat than any other American unit of its size, with 191 days in the frontline trenches. They also suffered more losses than any other American regiment, with more than 1,400 total casualties.

The extraordinary valor of the Harlem Hellfighters earned them fame in Europe and America, as newspapers recounted their remarkable feats. After the war, the French government awarded the coveted Croix de Guerre medal to 171 members of the regiment, as well as a Croix de Guerre citation to the unit as a whole. Certain members of the Harlem Hellfighters received a Distinguished Service Cross and other awards from the U.S. government. In 2015, Johnson received a Medal of Honor.

The Harlem Hellfighters were the first New York combat unit to return home, and the regiment, which had been denied a place in the farewell parade the prior year, was rewarded with a victory parade.

Stereograph of homecoming parade for the Harlem Hellfighters, 1919. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

On February 17, 1919, New Yorkers of every race turned out in huge numbers to cheer as 3,000 Harlem Hellfighters proudly marched up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue to the music of their renowned regimental jazz bandleader, James Reese Europe.

Unfortunately, their fame quickly faded, and for nearly 100 years the remarkable story of the Harlem Hellfighters was largely erased from America’s national consciousness.

With the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, however, the courage and service of African American patriots like the Harlem Hellfighters is once again being recognized and celebrated.

The Museum’s Double Victory: The African American Military Experience exhibition explores how the African Americans who served in the military since the American Revolution have not only defended our country but also helped to lead the fight for equality and justice for the greater African American community.

As a Museum supporter, you can be proud of the important role that you play in bringing African American history, such as the story of the Harlem Hellfighters, to life—educating and inspiring people across America and around the world!

All the best,
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Lonnie G. Bunch III
Founding Director

P.S. The Harlem Hellfighters served with distinction and proved that African Americans could fight as bravely and as well as white soldiers. However, they returned home to a nation that still treated them as second-class citizens. For almost a century their extraordinary exploits were largely forgotten, until the Museum reestablished their heroism in our national story. Thank you for your support. I hope you will consider joining as a Member or making a donation today.

Tell Your State Legislators to Rescind Article V Convention Applications

We’re getting uncomfortably close to a potentially disastrous event for our Constitution.  As of December 8, 2017, twenty-eight states have “live” applications to Congress to call an Article V convention for the purpose of proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). That means that if only six more states apply for such a convention, Congress will be forced to call it.

The danger in calling for such a convention is that based on the precedent of the May 14 Constitutional Convention of 1787, an Article V constitutional convention would have the power to make major changes in the Constitution, or even completely rewrite it, including changing the ratification process to make adoption of the revised constitution easier. This danger is referred to as “a runaway convention.”

In the early 1980s we were even closer to the calling of an Article V convention. Thirty-two of the necessary 34 states had applied to Congress to call a BBA Article V convention. Then over the years from 1988 to 2010, seventeen states rescinded (canceled) their BBA Article V convention applications based on the widespread knowledge that Article V constitutional conventions are threats to our rights as secured by the Constitution due to the power of such conventions to become runaway conventions. That meant that for a while only fifteen or sixteen states had “live” applications for a BBA Article V convention.

However, after 30 years had elapsed with no new BBA Article V convention applications approved, the momentum changed back in favor of applying for such conventions in 2013. Since then, some states that had rescinded their applications have reapplied, and some other states that had never applied, have now applied for the first time. However, 2016-2017 saw a resurgence in rescissions of BBA Article V convention applications, including rescissions in Delware (2016), Maryland (2017), Nevada (2017), and New Mexico (2017). Which brings us up to the present situation of twenty-eight states with “live” applications.

This resurgence of the Article V convention movement since 2013, although slowed down by the four recent rescissions, has been based on the energetic creation of new narratives by Article V convention proponents. However, these new narratives are based on numerous false marketing claims. For a rebuttal of these false marketing claims, we highly recommend that you view “Change It or Obey It? Why the Constitution Is the Solution,” a new 89-minute video presentation by constitutionalist Robert Brown by clicking on the graphic.

Once you’ve seen the video, we also recommend that you click the next graphic on the left and read the article, “Save the Constitution by Rescinding Article V Convention Applications,” for further information on the history of the Article V convention movement, the current status, and the need to rescind all existing Article V convention applications of all types in your state.  A “Model Resolution for a State Legislature to Rescind All Constitutional Convention Applications” is included in the article.

If you live in one of the 28 orange states shown in the BBA Article V Convention Status Map above, then the need is especially great for you to work with other activists and with your state legislators to get a rescission resolution introduced and passed. Remember that for every one of the 28 states that passes a rescission resolution, the BBA Article V convention movement is one state further away from their goal of 34 states.

If you live in Idaho, Oregon, South Carolina, or Virginia. you are off the hook for needing to rescind your state’s Article V convention applications because you have rescission resolutions that are still in effect and not overriden by later reapplications for a BBA Article V convention.

Please visit, phone, and email your state legislators in support of introducing and passing a rescission resolution. Although we provide a way for easy emailing to your state legislators, we know from long experience that getting a rescission resolution introduced and passed takes a lot more interaction with your legislators than that provided by emails alone.

Click here for the office locations and phone numbers of your state legislators.

Click here to view our Stop a Constitutional Convention action project page at for more educational tools.

resource: john birch society –

yes …them, but don’t get it twisted and don’t let the trump admin fool you we are in need to stay several steps ahead of them …Our constitution and democracy seem to be in danger …

imo ~ Nativegrl77