Press Release

For Immediate Release: January 16, 2018

Union County, NJ – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to welcome all residents and visitors to the 2018 Union County Black History Month Celebration event, featuring a screening of Men of Bronze, a rare 1977 documentary about the 369th Regiment in World War I. Keynote speaker Dr. Jeffrey Sammons, Professor of History at New York University, will provide commentary on the film and present his book, Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality, co-authored with John H. Morrow, Jr.

The event is free and open to the public. It will be held on Wednesday February 21, at 12:30 p.m. in the Student Development Building at Union County College, 1033 Springfield Avenue in Cranford. The program will last approximately two hours.

“Some of the veterans featured in this year’s Black History Month Celebration were from Union County,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “It is an honor to bring their stories home after so many years. Their experiences are a powerful reminder that the task of progress is never finished, and each new generation must renew the fight to ensure equality and dignity for all who call this great nation home.”

“At a time when our country is once again at the crossroads of freedom and oppression, it is all the more important to keep the lessons of history alive,” said Freeholder Mohamed S. Jalloh. “We hope that this year’s Black History Month celebration inspires all Union County residents to join together and keep working in the cause of justice and mutual respect.”

Dr. Sammons has taught at NYU since1989. A New Jersey native and a graduate of Rutgers University, he began his academic career at the University of Houston and as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cape Town before being named, in 1987, a Henry Rutgers Research Fellow at Rutgers University – Camden where he completed his critically acclaimed book Beyond the Ring: The Role of Boxing in American Society.

Sammons has also taught at Princeton University and at Hollins University as a Jessie Ball du Pont Scholar. He is currently at work on a book about race and golf, and he is writing a dedicated treatment of regimental hero Henry Johnson, the second black recipient of the Medal of Honor from WWI.  

In 2001 Sammons was awarded a fellowship by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and History and soon after received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in support of what became Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War.

Men of Bronze is the definitive story of the black American soldiers of the 369th combat regiment, who served with the French Army in World War I.  They called themselves the Rattlers and were known as the Harlem Hellfighters.

Although relegated to non-combat duty by the U.S. Command, the 369th was sent to France and spent more time in front-line trenches than any other American infantry unit.

Fighting alongside French, Moroccan and Senegalese soldiers at the campaigns of Champagne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne, the courageous men of the 369th distinguished themselves in some of the fiercest battles of the Great War.

Men of Bronze uses photographs, interviews with veterans, and film from the French and American National Archives to recount the sage of the Harlem Hellfighters, offering an inspiring tribute to these unsung heroes and an unforgettable look at World War I.

The 2018 Black History Month Celebration is sponsored by the Freeholder Board through the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs in the Department of Parks and Recreation, and is funded in part by a grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a Division of Cultural Affairs in the Department of State.

For more information on all Cultural and Heritage programs visit ucnj.org, email culturalinfo@ucnj.org or call 908-558-2550.

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For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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