2016 Walking the Spirit of…Jazz Age Paris & the Harlem Hellfighters, Heroes of WWI

July 10th–July 17th, 2016

Black Heritage, Jazz Music, WWI Battlefields & Champagne Country

8 days/7 nights in Paris & Reims

First World War Centenary 2014 – 2018 – Special Tours in Remembrance

The US 369th Infantry Regiment, better known by their nickname “Harlem Hellfighters,” were one of the most successful units in the American Expeditionary Force of the First World War. Among the first units in the US armed forces to have black officers in addition to its all black enlisted corps, the 369th compiled quite an impressive war record. Formed in New York in 1913 and dispatched to France in late 1917, the Hellfighters rejuvenated depleted French troops, never lost a foot of ground or had a man taken prisoner. For service in the First World War, 171 members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Honour and many Distinguished Service Crosses. For exceptional bravery, the Hellfighters were also awarded the prestigious Croix de Guerre, the first Americans to achieve what is France’s highest military honour.

Originally overlooked in America, the Hellfighters received more recognition on the home front for their musical qualities but their military service began a change of attitude. At the end of the war, the 369th returned to New York City and paraded through the city where thousands, of all races, lined the streets to celebrate their achievements.

The regimental band under leadership of James R Europe took France by storm, introducing the new and exciting rhythms of jazz to the continent, spurring Paris in particular on its continued love of jazz music. The 369th Regiment’s band were highly regarded and relied upon to boost morale for all Allied troops, which can be the difference between a battle being won or lost.

On this tour, follow the 369th through the musical streets of Paris and onto the front line, where they spent 191 days in combat, longer than any other American unit. On the battlefield, focus on the areas northeast of Paris including Belleau Wood, Chateau Thierry and the Meuse-Argonne where these brave soldiers fought in the trenches alongside French regiments. This area is a popular tourist destination, in the heart of Champagne Country, so we have the opportunity for a sample!

This one-of-a-kind tour is a partnership between Special Group Tours, which specializes in small group touring of fascinating destinations and themes in the UK and Europe, and Walking The Spirit Tours, the pioneers of Black heritage tourism in Paris and France.


NEW!  DVD “When African Americans Came To Paris”  http://www.africanamericansinparis.com/


Day 1              ARRIVAL DAY PARIS

Welcome to Paris! You will be met on arrival and taken to your hotel. An orientation panoramic tour of the highlights of Paris will be included. Catch your first glimpse of the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral, iconic Eiffel Tower, scenic River Seine and more!

This evening, we will enjoy a welcome dinner together at a traditional Parisian cafe with connections to African-American history, either Café le Select, James Baldwin’s ‘local’, or Café deTournon, favoured by Richard Wright and Duke Ellington.

Overnight: Paris, DBB                    Hotel de l’Avenir or similar http://www.hoteldelavenir.com/



Begin with hotel pick up for a private bus journey to the former Black Montmartre of the 1920s where jazz and Josephine reigned, continue along the Champs-Elysées to celebrate Sally Hemings, the 369th Harlem Infantry and the Paris art salons which hosted exhibits by Henry O. Tanner, Lois Mailou Jones and many artists. After a quick snack, you’ll enjoy our Writers, Artists & Intellectuals walk through the Latin Quarter and St Germain-des-Pres arts district.

Along the way: WEB Dubois, Meta Vaux Warrick, Anna Julia Cooper, Richard Wright. It’s an ideal Paris city tour that includes the little known but vital Black heritage as you sweep past the most well-known sites – Louvre, Obelisque, Opera, Notre Dame, Invalides, St Germain-des-Pres and more.  Perfect introduction for first-timers, and an enlightening second look for returning visitors. You’ll have several opportunities to disembark to take photos.

Our day will include a group lunch together at an African restaurant specializing in cuisine from Cameroon, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

This evening is free for guests to explore as they please. Perhaps a night out at one of the city’s many fabulous Jazz venues?

Overnight: Paris, BB + lunch         Hotel de l’Avenir or similar http://www.hoteldelavenir.com/



Leaving our Paris hotel at approximately 9am, head for the Marne where we will cover the important Battles of Belleau Wood and 2nd Marne, where the 369th made important contributions as part of the French 4th Army.

We’ll explore the remnants of shell holes and trenches in Belleau Wood, see the captured town of Vaux which was targeted by a massive German gas attack causing over 400 casualties to suffer from the effects like Lt. James R Europe and visit the Hill 204 US Monument overlooking Chateau Thierry.

This afternoon, we continue along the Marne and pay our respects at Les Fantomes, the memorial to the 2nd Battle of the Marne and the US Oise-Aisne Cemetery before making our way to our overnight stop, the beautiful city of Reims, capital of the Champagne region.

Overnight: Reims, DBB                   Grand Hotel des Templiers or similar http://hotel.templiers.pagesperso-orange.fr/english.html



Today, we venture further east into the Meuse-Argonne to explore the battlefields where the 369th again rose to the challenge in September 1918. We’ll follow them up the heights north of La Dormoise where they advanced under heavy machine gun fire to capture the town of Sechault.

We’ll hear about the heroic actions of Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts, both awarded the Croix de Guerre. Learn how the former porter for the NY subway virtually single-handedly defeated a 24 man German patrol, at one point only armed with a bollo knife.

From the top of the Montfaucon US Memorial, we’ll have an excellent view of the ridges that needed to be taken in order to push the German armies back east.

Sites around the Argonne Forest will tell us the stories of the Rainbow Division from which the Hellfighters were so harshly excluded, villages lost to mining and the “Lost Batallion”.

Overnight: Reims, DBB


Day 5              REIMS & TASTE OF CHAMPAGNE

This morning offers time to explore Reims independently, a city brimming with history and royal tradition. Those who wish to further investigate the battlefield theme have the Museum of Armistice, as it was here that WWII was ended. The cathedral is the focal point of course, but its museums, architecture and the spirit of Joan of Arc have something to offer for everyone. Entrance to the famed cathedral is included.

This afternoon, following an included ‘French picnic lunch’ together, explore one of the famed Champagne cellars. Large Classical and Renaissance-style private mansions house the prestigious Champagne Houses with over 100km of underground passages, reserved solely for storing Champagne! We will have a guided tour and tasting at either Moët & Chandon, Mercier or Mumm.

We will arrive back into Paris early evening. Tonight is free for guests to explore as they please, another opportunity to enjoy Paris’ world famous jazz venues and wonderful nightlife!

Overnight: Paris, BB                       Hotel de l’Avenir or similar http://www.hoteldelavenir.com/


Day 6              FREE DAY IN PARIS

A full day to explore the highlights of the city as you choose, see the iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower and Arche de Triomphe, the world class museums of Louvre, d’Orsay or simply meander the ancient cobbled streets or along the scenic river and sample life in a sidewalk cafe like a local, people watching and the world go by. How you spend your day is up to you. There is a variety of optional half and full day walking/bus/river cruise options so please discuss your wishes with us if you would like assistance in booking an optional tour.

Overnight: Paris, BB                       Hotel de l’Avenir or similar http://www.hoteldelavenir.com/


Day 7              FREE DAY IN PARIS

Another day to explore Paris as you please. While there is no shortage of wonderful options in the city itself, there’s also the possibility for some time out in the countryside at Monet’s Giverny gardens or the Palace of Versailles. Spoilt for choice!

Tonight, enjoy a farewell evening together featuring a dinner and jazz night out on the town. Hopefully a perfect ending to your Spirit of Black Paris adventure!


Overnight: Paris, DBB                    Hotel de l’Avenir or similar http://www.hoteldelavenir.com/

Day 8 

Transfers to the airport for your departure flight home or perhaps you’ll prefer to extend your stay. Paris is well connected to many other charming European cities. Travel via Eurostar to London or Brussels or TGV train to Amsterdam and elsewhere. We are happy to assist you with onward journey if you wish, please just ask us!


ABOUT WALKING THE SPIRIT TOURS: When Julia Browne stood infront of the Paris building where Langston Hughes had written his jazz poetry in the 1920s, she couldn’t believe that one of her literary idols had lived and worked in her same north end neighborhood. A mission was born – people had to know about this.  That was 1994. Inspired by the writing of her mentor, the late Professor Michel Fabre of the Sorbonne Nouvelle, she carried out further research then launched Walking The Spirit Tours, the pioneering tours of black Paris.

20 years on, they still take great pride in educating and inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds on the rich cultural exchange between African American, Diaspora and French culture.

Catering to the growing fascination from travelers with little time to research but who crave authentic cultural experiences, Julia funnels her amour for the French lifestyle into designing personalized itineraries. As a certified Destination France Specialist and former longtime resident, Julia also expertly organizes full trip planning in France and Europe.  The goal is simple: to share the passion by opening the doors for travelers to actively participate in culinary exploration, to explore off the path neighborhoods, to gaze at great and lesser known art, and to venture out, as the expatriates did, and engage with local residents of charming towns.

Oft imitated, never duplicated! This itinerary is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours/Walk the Spirit and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT/WTS.


Toll Free Tel: 1 866-725-5250

$3899 USD per person twin/dbl; $800 single supplement

Travel dates don’t match? This itinerary is also available for private departures, date of your choice, for any party size from 2 guests and up. It can be modified to best suit you as a custom/private tour package. Please ask us for a rate quote.


*Arrival transfer Paris CDG Airport to tour hotel with panoramic city orientation tour

*Departure tour hotel to Paris CDG Airport transfer

*Full Day ‘Spirit of Black Paris’ vehicle tour

*3 touring days with battlefield specialist driver/guide & vehicle; all vehicle/guide expenses

*5 nights accommodation in 3 star Paris hotel with breakfast daily

*2 nights accommodation in 3 or 4 star Reims hotel with breakfast and dinner daily

*Welcome dinner in a traditional Paris cafe

*Lunch in an African restaurant

*traditional ‘French style’ picnic lunch

*Farewell dinner and jazz night in Paris

*Entrance fees to Reims Cathedral

*Entrance, guided tour and tasting to a Champagne House