Photo of Army and Navy Bands at a War Bond Rally in the Hawaiian Armory June 19, 1945. Jazz legend John Coltrane is the saxophone player bottom row far right. Photo courtesy of Museum is US Army Museum of Hawaii (photo #2428), Judith Bowman, Director US Army Museum of Hawaii.
In 1942, the Navy enlisted 5,000 African American musicians, such as trumpeter Clark Terry, saxophonist Von Freeman, and composer Gerald Wilson, successfully creating some of the best jazz bands in the country, helping to end segregation in the Navy. Also of note, Musician First Class James Parsons, trumpeter, was later appointed by President John F. Kennedy as the first African American Federal Judge with permanent tenure.
From the "Golden Age of Bands" to today's technology-driven entertainment, U.S. Navy Band Great Lakes continues "Pride in Service" as a force for global good through community outreach, diversity, recruitment, and honoring those who serve. (source: Navy Band Great Lakes)
This is the captivating history of African-American musicians in the U.S. Navy, and their fight for recognition and social justice. African-Americans have been a part of Navy music since the days of the Colonial Navy, and have played an integral role in the defense of our nation and in boosting the morale of sailors aboard ship and ashore. Exhaustive research by the Navy Band's archive team, in partnership with the Naval History and Heritage Command, has uncovered some surprising and unusual facts about their efforts to integrate the Navy and to be recognized as invaluable contributors to our nation's history and cultural heritage. This story is also told in music, through performances by band members from all units of the Navy Band, and with photos from our archives and the Naval History and Heritage Command. We look forward to presenting this little-known history of African-American Navy musicians!
Navy Pioneers: A History of African Americans in the Navy Music Program