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Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light Hardcover – December 4, 1996
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Significant numbers of black Americans went to France for the first time in World War I as part of the U.S. armed forces and discovered a country where they were free of the strictures of racism. This comprehensive look at black Americans' historical affection for Paris in the 20th century covers literary figures like Richard Wright, entertainers like Josephine Baker and jazz musicians like Sidney Bechet and Kenny Clarke, as well as black academics, scientists and businessmen who found new lives in Paris. This is an important, and welcome book.
From Publishers Weekly
Stovall's revelatory chronicle reclaims an important yet neglected chapter of cultural history, delineating a cohesive community of black American expatriate writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals in Paris from 1914 to the present. During WWI African American soldiers, targets of discrimination on the front and back home, were welcomed cordially by ordinary French citizens. Attracted by the myth of a color-blind France, Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes, Claude McKay and Countee Cullen flocked to Paris; Josephine Baker conquered the stage with her sensational performances; jazz musicians Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Bill Coleman lived in and drew inspiration from the City of Light. In the 1930s African American expatriate writers and artists in Paris helped launch the Negritude movement. Postwar Paris became a magnet to writers like Richard Wright, James Baldwin and detective novelist Chester Himes, who saw themselves as political exiles from a racist U.S. They fit into a vibrant Left Bank community that maintained close ties with Camus, Cocteau, Sartre, de Beauvoir. The 1960s and '70s saw an influx of African American emigre scientists, photographers, restaurant owners, taxi drivers, diversifying the community that today faces the rise of overt French racism. Stovall, a history professor at UC Santa Cruz, begins with an account of his own transformative experience as an African American in Paris in the early 1980s. His engrossing survey makes a compelling case that these expatriates pioneered a new type of cosmopolitan black community, one that celebrated black identity and helped them achieve a level of success denied to them back home, while they explored different modes of African-based culture from around the world. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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