James Reese Europe was an American ragtime and early jazz bandleader, arranger, and composer. He was the leading figure on the African-American music scene of New York City in the 1910s. Eubie Blake called him the "Martin Luther King of music
Europe was known for his outspoken personality and unwillingness to bend to musical conventions, particularly in his insistence on playing his own style of music. He responded to criticism by saying,” We have developed a kind of symphony music that, no matter what else you think, is different and distinctive, and that lends itself to the playing of the peculiar compositions of our race…My success had come…from a realization of the advantages of sticking to the music of my own people.” And later, “We colored people have our own music that is part of us. It’s the product of our souls; it’s been created by the sufferings and miseries of our race.