The Story Behind the Memorabilia

Photos and text by Nicole E. Webb

The American Legion James Reese Europe Post No. 5, named after the famous 369th infantry bandleader, was founded at Irving Hall in Southwest Washington, D.C. The idea to start the Post came when World War I veteran Alexander Mann initiated a meeting with other fellow African American veterans. On June 27, 1919, Mann and 23 other veterans were issued the fifth American Legion charter, with Mann initiated as the Post’s commander.

Post No. 5 is one of the last of its kind. In a time when veteran membership and activism is at an all-time low, the Post is trying to hold onto its members.

Located within the Post No. 5’s house are years’ worth of history, memories and accomplishments of the Post and its members. Throughout the house are memorabilia and artifacts that current members hope to preserve in a way that showcases the organization’s rich history. The Post has teamed up with the American University Community and Economic Development Law Clinic to archive the memorabilia.

  • Vice Commander reflects on past members

    Vice Commander John Hicks, a Korean War veteran, discusses a picture of past Post No. 5 members.

  • Old newspaper clipping introduces past legion chaplain

    A 1965 clipping from the Afro-American Newspaper of a feature about Post No. 5's chaplain, Ernest Cunningham.

  • The Legion honors its past members

    Past members of Post No. 5 are honored on the organization’s Honor Roll plaque.

  • A preservation of history

    Post No. 5 and the American University Community and Economic Development Law Clinic have teamed up to preserve the Post's memorabilia.

  • Community Activism

    A trophy awarded to Post No. 5 for its community work.

  • Historic memorabilia

    A model aircraft like those flown by the Tuskegee Airmen is among the memorabilia Post No. 5 seeks to preserve.

  • The Tuskegee Airmen

    An original photograph of the Tuskegee Airmen is on Post No. 5's mantel.

  • Past Legion Commanders

    Photos of Post No. 5's past commanders grace the building's basement meeting room's walls.

  • Veteran Activism

    Post No. 5 remains proactive in seeking assistance for local veterans and honoring those who have lost their lives.

  • In Memory

    A photo at the Post No. 5 home of former Commander Thomas Campbell and Unit President Betty Howie at the laying of the wreath at Arlington Cemetery on the gravesite of Lt. James Reese Europe.

  • To be archived ...

    Collected newspaper clippings in Post No. 5's home, waiting to be archived.

  • Past meeting minutes

    Boxes of memorabilia in Post No. 5's home include meeting minutes, letters and song lyrics like these.

  • Post No. 5 Women's Auxillary

    A photograph of Post No. 5 women’s auxiliary members at one of the auxilliary's anniversary celebrations.

  • Post No. 5 Commander James Jones

    Current Post No. 5 Commander Dr. James Jones, a Vietnam War veteran, tells a story of the Post’s history to American University graduate student Sarah Edwards in one of the Post's upstairs rooms where materials are being sorted for preservation.

  • A moment in time

    Photo depicting past Post No. 5 members during a meeting.

  • The Legion Letter

    A copy of the April 1961 Legion Letter, which is Post No. 5's newsletter.

  • A picture worth a thousand words

    Vice Commander John Hicks explains the story behind Post No. 5's historic artwork to American University students.

  • 2009 Presidential Inauguration Invitation

    An official invitation to the 2009 presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama. Post No. 5 opened the doors of its Capitol Hill home to visitors attending the Inauguration, offering hot coffee and a warm welcome that frigid January morning. Many who came by were Civil Rights-era African Americans who had traveled a long distance to see the historic event.

  • Past members remembered

    Pictures of past members on the wall of Post No. 5's main corridor.

  • The legion shield

    The American Legion shield at the entrance of the Post’s home at 2027 North Capitol Street Northeast.

  • James Reese Europe Post No. 5

    The plaque on Post No. 5’s Capitol Hill home, with the years of chartering, 1919, and incorporation, 1944.