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December 10, 2016
AMERICAN PRODUCER TO BE HONORED IN MONTREAL
Groundbreaking WWI Centennial Project to be Recognized
DETROIT—An American multimedia producer’s crusade to restore a lost part of WWI history has been selected to receive an honor. Heather Buchanan, executive producer of The Remembrance Project, has been awarded the 2017 Paul Charosh Fellowship from the Society for American Music. Buchanan will be recognized at the Society’s conference in March at the Chateau Champlain.
“In many ways, I feel like I’m righting a wrong,” said Buchanan about The Remembrance Project, a multimedia centennial initiative on the all-black 369th Regiment of World War I, commonly known as the Harlem Hellfighters. In the countless historical records about the “War to End All Wars,” little has been said about the regiment’s significant contribution to the Allied victory.
“The entry of the 369th into the war was a game-changer,” Buchanan said, “but it has taken nearly 100 years for its soldiers to be recognized for their valor.” A famous example is Sgt. Henry Johnson, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously by President Obama in 2015.
Buchanan has spent years researching the regiment, its band and its leader, Lt. James Reese Europe. The regiment was awarded France’s highest honor, the Croix de Guerre. The regiment was unique because its acclaimed regimental band toured France as ambassadors of a new musical form, jazz. Lt. Europe would go on to compose some of the most famous music of the wartime era. Famous members included Noble Sissle of Broadway’s “Shuffle Along” and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
“There are so many amazing angles to this true story. This was the dawn of the Jazz Age,” Buchanan said. “Here you have black American jazz musicians fighting for the French army, because they were barred from fighting alongside their fellow white Americans. Their regiment, the 369th, serves with distinction and is instrumental to the Allied victory. All the while, the band is introducing France to jazz, which changes that country forever. Despite all these achievements, however, the regiment is stripped of everything and denied all honors due returning heroes. One bright spot is the band embarking on a successful U.S. postwar tour, but then their bandleader is killed. And that’s only part of the story.”
Buchanan’s fellowship will enable her to contribute new scholarship on this topic. A companion novel in a four-book series, Remembrance: Arrival, has just been released. A digital theatre production will begin filming in 2017. A portion of proceeds will go towards the World War I Memorial opening in the U.S. Capital in 2018.
Remembrance, Book One: ARRIVAL is available at Amazon.com. Buchanan is available for interviews.