While we know them as the Harlem Hellfighters, these brave soldiers who fought many battles during World War I with honor and dignity were not always recognized and honored as they are today. The group was founded on June 2, 1913, as the 15th New York Colored Regiment, which was part of the National Guard. Just a little over three years later, they were organized in New York City as the 369th Regiment. Nearly three-quarters of the men who served in the 369th Regiment called Harlem their home.
For years, the US Military did not operate with any anti-segregation policy, and the brave African-American soldiers in this regiment never received any real training to fight. Despite this, they chose to serve in the US military to help protect their home and their families, and their country. They practiced drills at the Lafayette Dance Hall and would be seen in Harlem practicing with broomsticks because the government did not give them rifles. Today the Harlem Hellfighters are respected and applauded for their bravery and commitment to their country at a time when their country did not have their best interests in mind.