PARIS (Conspiracy Talk News) – The great black US writers James Baldwin and Richard Wright began their dispute over the work of the latter “Native Son” at Café Les Deux Magots.
Miles Davis walked by the Seine holding hands with Juliette Greco after spending time with Pablo Picasso.
Josephine Baker was idolized for her performances at the Theater des Champs-Elysees.
Most tourists take selfies at the Eiffel Tower, they go to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe.
But if you want to do something different, explore the relationship African Americans have with the city of light. Several of the most prominent black intellectuals and artists in the United States settled in Paris to escape the racism of their country in the 20th century. And with a little work, you can follow in their footsteps.
“Paris … There you can be whatever you want to be. Totally you “, wrote the poet Langston Hughes, according to the book of memories of Paule Marshal” Triangular Road “(Triangular Way).
“I never felt any regret” after changing the United States for France, Wright said.
How many of these expatriates felt more at ease in Paris than in their own country is the theme of Black Paris Tours, a walk designed by Ricki Stevenson.
In the United States, African Americans grappled with segregation, racial violence and lack of support for their art.
But in Paris, they drank wine with the surrealists, frequented bars that collaborated with the French resistance during the Second World War and their works were very well received, according to Stevenson.
The French admired them and gave them opportunities, which is striking if one thinks about the treatment they gave to their African colonies. And while Paris is today a multi-ethnic city, immigrants from its former colonies, especially North African ones, are often discriminated against and targeted for racist demonstrations even today.
A few decades ago, however, African-Americans felt welcome.
Freda Josephine McDonald, a native of San Luis, for example, came to Paris as a dancer after cleaning houses and taking care of children for wealthy white families in the United States. In her country they told her that she was “too black”. But in Paris she caused a sensation with her performance in the show La Revue Negre at the Theater des Champs-Elysees. With the new name of Josephine Baker, she was one of the most popular artists of her time.
“In Paris she had the opportunity to make a rich, full life,” Stevenson said. “Something I could not have in the United States.”
When she died in 1975, she was buried with a French military uniform and the medals she received for her role in the resistance.
Today, one can see a show at the Theater des Champs-Elysees, visit Baker’s favorite restaurant, La Coupole, and take photos at Josephine Baker Plaza. Her image is rarely seen in the United States, but it is everywhere in Paris. There is even a swimming pool that bears her name, on a barge that floats on the Seine.
And while the Lenox Lounge, the famous Harlem jazz club where Billie Holiday sang, has already closed, Parisian jazz clubs like the Caveau de la Huchette in the Latin Quarter still offer large doses of swing and bebop.
Founded in 1947, the Caveau de la Huchette was one of several clubs in which African-American artists could make a living. There, figures such as Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey and their Jazz Messengers performed. Last year, some scenes from the movie “La La Land” were filmed at the club.
Around the corner, there are businesses selling old things that sell posters of black jazz musicians and hard-to-find vinyl albums, like Coleman Hawkins’ “The Hawk in Paris.”
The Café de Flore of Saint Germain des Press is famous because it was the favorite place of Ernest Hemingway. But it was also the place where James Baldwin, raised in Harlem and who arrived in Paris with only $40 in his pockets, wrote “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” There is a small picture of Hemingway on the floor above, but none of Baldwin.
At the Cafe Le Select, where the intellectuals met before the Second World War, Baldwin finished “Giovanni’s Room” (Giovanni’s Room), a novel about an American in Paris and his affair with an Italian.
Remembering his season in Paris, Miles Davis once wrote: “I loved being in Paris and I loved the way they treated me.”