WII B-I US Navy Band 75th Anniversary Round Table Discussion and Presentation | News Release | City of Alexandria

WII B-I US Navy Band 75th Anniversary Round Table Discussion and Presentation

Watson Reading Room

Alexandria Black History Museum

Saturday, August 5, 1:30-3:30 p.m.


The historic WWII B-I US Navy Band was a group of 44 African American musicians who integrated the Navy by enlisting at general rank on May 27, 1942. This year they are celebrating their 75th anniversary. This elite group of musicians were considered to be the best black musicians in NC at that time. The band was primarily comprised of students from NC A&T State University (26) and Dudley High School (7) in Greensboro, NC as well as North Carolina Central University (4) and Hillside High School in Durham, NC (1), Hampton University (4), Johnson C. Smith University (1) and South Carolina State University (1).

The band was assigned to the Naval Pre-Flight School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1942-1944. Due to segregation laws, the B-I Band could not be housed on UNC’s campus with the white Naval cadets of the Pre-Flight School. Instead, the group was housed in a new building which originally had been planned as a Community Center for African-American residents of Chapel Hill. The band had to march 2 miles one way every day except Sunday rain or shine for the morning flag raising and as the cadets changed classes. Special assignments for the band during their twenty-one months of service at the Pre-Flight School included numerous regimental reviews; war bond rallies and parades in Durham and Raleigh, Army-Navy E-Award presentations, and a ship launching in Wilmington, N.C.  There were also summer concert series and musical performances at baseball, basketball and football games.

In May 1944, the band was assigned to Manana Barracks, Hawaii to help ease racial tensions between African-American and white sailors. In Hawaii, the band performed for Navy officials and dignitaries, military reviews, special events, ship embarkations, the USO and AAU games. The band was also divided into two smaller jazz/dance bands and performed musical programs which included a variety show.

Three of the four surviving members of B-I will be at the Watson Reading Room to share their B-I stories. They are Mr. Simeon Holloway from Las Vegas, NV, Mr. Calvin Morrow from Greensboro, NC and Mr. Jewitt White from Silver Springs, Maryland. In addition to a round table discussion with B-I members there will also be a power point presentation and pictorial exhibit. The B-I members will be joined by Alex Albright, author of the book, The Forgotten First: B-1 and the Integration of the Modern Navy, and family members of deceased bandsmen.

This event will be held on Saturday, August 5, 2017 from 1:30-3:30 pm in the Watson Reading Room at the Alexandria Black History Museum. The event is free and open to the public and is appropriate for all ages.

The Alexandria Black History Museum is located at 902 Wythe Street, Alexandria, Virginia  22314 and it is five blocks from the Braddock Road Metro Station on the Yellow and Blue Lines. Street parking is available. For more information, please call 703.746.4356.

The City of Alexandria is committed to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended. To request a reasonable accommodation, e-mail black.history@alexandriava.gov, or call 703.746.4356, Virginia Relay 711.

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