Welcome to America Comes Alive!, a site I created to share little-known stories of America’s past. These stories are about Americans—people just like you—who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and find what inspires you.

Pop culture is as American as apple pie. Enjoy the stories behind favorite hobbies, sports, and collectibles.


James Reese Europe: Bandleader Who Popularized Jazz and Ragtime

James Reese Europe (1880-1919) was a gifted musician who James Reese Europeachieved numerous firsts in bringing African-American musicians and music into the mainstream.  As a conductor and composer, he is credited with bringing ragtime and jazz to European audiences. He enlisted in what was to become the 369th Regiment (Harlem Hellfighters) during World War I and was bandleader and also became an officer in charge one of the machine gun squads, making him the first African-American officer to command troops during wartime.

James Reese Europe’s Early Years

Europe was born in Mobile, Alabama. His father was a minster and an Internal Revenue Service employee who moved his family to Washington, D.C. in 1889 to accept a job with the Post Office.  Both parents and some of Europe’s siblings were musically talented, as was James Reese Europe, and Europe was admitted to a prestigious school for blacks in D.C.  There he studied violin, piano, and composition.

Continue reading…


"What can one person do?"
Read some of the stories on this site; you'll see that they revolve around single individuals who worked toward change.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead


Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965) was a successful actress and singer. She started performing as a child in local variety shows, and then eventually made a career for herself in films. Her portrayal of the lead role in Carmen Jones brought her positive acclaim, including the honor of being … Continue reading »

Black America
Black America was the brainchild of Nate Salsbury (1846-1902), the man who was also behind the very successful, long-running Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. In 1894 Salsbury found Brooklyn’s Ambrose Park free for a time, since the Wild West Show had just decamped to a new city. Salsbury… Continue reading »

Major Taylor
Marshall “Major” Taylor (1878-1932) was a champion cyclist who set numerous world records and was the first African-American cyclist to become an international sports star. At the time Taylor raced, cycling was a relatively young sport, but its popularity grew quickly. Endurance races, long distance races, and sprints… Continue reading »

Jay-Silverheels
Jay Silverheels (1912-1980) is best-remembered for his role as Tonto in The Lone Ranger, an ABC television program that ran for 221 episodes (1949-1957). Silverheels was a full-blooded Mohawk Indian born on the Six Nations Indian Reservation in Ontario, Canada. His birth name was Harold Smith, and he was… Continue reading »

cigar store Indian
In the 19th century many people could not read, so store owners placed carvings of various symbols in front of their shops so passersby knew what was sold inside. A carving of a wooden Indian indicated a tobacco store; a red, white and blue striped pole… Continue reading »

Old Yeller
Old Yeller, or the dog that played Old Yeller, was a homeless dog found in a shelter in Van Nuys, California.  The dog’s real name was Spike. Spike almost didn’t get the part in the movie about Old Yeller because everyone thought he was too much of a… Continue reading »

This Day in History

On March 31, 1943, Oklahoma premiered on Broadway. It was expected to flop. Columnist Walter Winchell sent a telegram that said: “No girls. No legs. No chance.” But the Rodgers and Hart musical proved everyone wrong; it opened and had a first run that lasted 15 years.

site by: Deyo Designs
Copyright © 2011-2014 Kate Kelly, America Comes Alive | Site Map
Follow Kate >
Get every new post on America Comes Alive! delivered to your inbox.