Collection (1942 – 2014, undated) of programs, notes, photographic prints, etc. documenting the history and membership of the U. S. Navy B-1 Band, the first All-African American band to serve in the U. S. Navy during World War II, including reunion programs, historical and biographical sketches and photographs of the band and its members, rosters, and the music and lyrics for naval hymns.
U. S. Navy B-1 Band was the first all Negro Navy Band to serve in the U. S. Navy. It grew out of an April 1942 plan to establish a 44 – piece band for the U. S. Navy Pre-Flight School scheduled to be commissioned in Chapel Hill, NC in May of that year. The Navy Department then sent Chief Bandmaster C. E. Dudrow, USN (ret.) to select and train members of the prospective band. North Carolina Governor J. Melville Broughton assisted the process by establishing an advisory committee to help promote the band.
The 44 bandsmen that Dudrow selected with the assistance of the advisory committee came mainly from among the students of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, NC; North Carolina Central University, in Durham, NC; and from Hillside High School in Durham, NC. The band was based at Hargraves Recreational Center during their early wartime service.
The band mustered at Raleigh on 27 May 1942, and then traveled by train to Norfolk, Virginia for 9-weeks of naval indoctrination. Approximately one-third of the men were college graduates and majority had at least two years of college education.
After basic training the band reported to the Navy Pre-Flight School in Chapel Hill on 31 July 1942. They lived in a new building, originally intended as a Community Center for Negroes of Chapel Hill.
During the 21 months the band served at the Pre-Flight School, they performed at regimental reviews, war bond rallies and parades, throughout the region. They performed at Army-Navy E-Award presentations. They even entertained at ship launching. The B-1 Band also held a summer concert series, and played at various sporting events.
The Band was then assigned overseas duty, arrive at Manama Navy Barracks, Pearl City, Oahu, Hawaii, where they arrived on 24 May 1944. This remained their post throughout the remainder of the war. During this period, a few new members joined the band; but essentially the band's service remained unchanged as it toured the numerous army and navy bases in Hawaii.
In the years following the war, most band members completed their education and made professional careers for themselves. Many achieved success in the professions, or in business, or as performers. On 14 February 1981, the U.S. Navy School of Music awarded honorary degrees to the members of the band. The CBS network broadcast the event nationally.
In the years after the war the B-1 Band members established a pattern of holding reunions in August or September of every year. The collection holds programs for most of the reunions from the 35th reunion (1977) through the 72nd reunion (2014).
the U. S. Navy B-1 Band Reunion Collection consists of four series arranged in original order documenting the reunions, history, and membership of the U. S. Navy B-1 Band, 1942-2013, undated and its reunions, 1977 – 2014.
Series 1: Documents (14-19 October 2003) relating to the Band's 61st Reunion
Series 2: U. S. Navy B-1 Band Reunion Programs (12 August 1977 – 25 August 2013) Addition #1.
Series 3: Roger F. Holt Portrait (ca. 1942 – 1945) Addition #1
Series 4: 72nd Anniversary Celebration Banquet Program (2 August 2014) Addition #2
Gift of Alex Albright
Encoded by Mark Custer, March 17, 2008. Preliminary processing & preliminary inventory by Thomas Hall (intern), 7/8/2018; Processing revised & container list by Jonathan Dembo, 7/1/2019.
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.