Celebrating the Harlem Renaissance at

The Newberry Museum

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"Influenced by the Harlem Renaissance... Finding Their Voice Through the Arts" 

In order to celebrate the ways in which the music and general artistic expression within the Harlem Renaissance continues to influence African American creatives in Newberry and beyond, we are proud to host "Influenced by the Harlem Renaissance... Finding Their Voice Through the Arts." 

The exhibit celebrates the significant, historic ties African Americans in Newberry have to this movement as artists, members of the great migration out of the south to northern industrial areas, and as soldiers in World War I. 

Current African American artists and creatives with ties to Newberry County explore how they found their own voices through unique artistic practices. Visitors are invited to explore how art and the spirit of Harlem Renaissance may help them find their own voices, locate their own roots, and unlock their own creative potential. 

The Newberry Museum, in partnership with Newberry Arts Center - NAC, Newberry Made, and Create Newberry, Inc., put together an exhibit of 12 African American artists with a Newberry County connection, and asked them to answer this fundamental question: How have the arts helped you find your voice? Explore their answers here, and visit our website for spotlights on individual artists, as well as additional information about the project. Funding by CREATE Newberry, Inc. and Newberry Arts Center is made possible through The Art of Community: Rural S.C. and the South Carolina Arts Commission. 

Group Video for "Finding Their Voice" Contributing Artists

Individual Contributing Artist Videos 

Celebrating the Musical and Military Legacy of the Harlem Hellfighters

In honor of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Harlem Renaissance, The Newberry Museum feels called to tell the story of both the musical and military history of one of the most decorated U.S. regiments: The Harlem Hellfighters. 

On December 27th, 1917, The New York National Guard’s 369th Infantry Regiment became the first African Americans to serve during World War I, as well as the first all-Black United States combat unit to be shipped overseas during the war. Racial discrimination prevented these soldiers from joining in with the American troops, resulting in their fighting alongside French soldiers as critically needed reinforcement against the Central Powers. 

The 369th were soon given the nickname “Harlem Hellfighters” by the Germans, due to their keen ability, during 191 days of duty at the front, to “never lose a soldier to capture, or a foot of ground to the enemy.” The Hellfighters received 171 individual soldier citations for bravery, as well as the Croix de Guerre, France's highest military honor. The troops spent more time under enemy fire than any other American unit in WWI. Known for their bravery and military prowess, the Harlem Hellfighters left a noteworthy legacy of honor and integrity that permeated throughout the National Guard. 

Apart from their heroism on the battlefield, the 369th Regiment was known for another, more creative endeavor as well: The 369th Regimental Army Band.

 

The 369th Regimental Army Band was relied upon not only in battle, but also to boost morale with musical selections. The ensemble introduced European audiences, especially in France, to live jazz music for the first time. The musical assemblage was led by James Reese Europe, who many credit as helping to initiate the Harlem Renaissance and sowed seeds that were later nurtured by jazz musicians like Duke Ellington.

The Newberry Museum’s Harlem Renaissance exhibit serves as a unique opportunity to provide a tribute to the 369th Infantry and their outstanding contributions during WW I. In addition to highlighting the accomplishments of the 369th in combat, the exhibit also focuses on the role played by 369th band under the direction of James Reese Europe, and the music which inspired both the US and French military and civilians alike, and led to the beginning of the explosion of musical creativity that characterizes the Harlem Renaissance. 

In recognizing the legacy of the Hellfighters, we would be remiss if we did not help uncover the roots of one of Newberry County’s own Hellfighters. Born in Prosperity, Moon registered for the draft on June  5, 1917 and enlisted in Newberry on October 6, 1917. Tarrance was part of the 369th, and ultimately  died from an “accident or other causes” during wartime on August 23, 1918. Moon passed away before being properly recognized for his valor; we are grateful to get to help one of our own achieve recognition, albeit posthumously. 

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