African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans, Afro-Americans) in France are a subgroup of the larger American population in France, it may include people of African American heritage or black people from the United States who are or have become residents or citizens of France as well as students and temporary workers. Tyler Stovall, a history professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is quoted as saying,
"In many ways, African Americans came to France as a sort of privileged minority, a kind of model minority, if you will - a group that benefited not only from French fascination with blackness, but a French fascination about Americanness."
African Americans, who are largely descended from Africans of the American colonial era, have lived and worked in France since the 1800s. Unofficial figures indicate that up to 50,000 free blacks emigrated to Paris from Louisiana in the decades after Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in 1803.Paris saw the beginnings of an African-American community in the aftermath of World War I when about 200,000 were brought over to fight. Ninety per cent of these soldiers were from the American South. Many black GIs decided to stay in France after having been well received by the French, and others followed them. France was viewed by many African Americans as a welcome change from the widespread racism in the United States. It was during this time that jazz was introduced to the French and black culture was born in Paris. African American musicians, artists, and Harlem Renaissance writers found 1920s Paris ready to embrace them with open arms. Montmartre became the center of the small community, with jazz clubs such as Le Grand Duc, Chez Florence and Bricktop's thriving in Paris. World War II brought all the fanfare to an abrupt halt. The Nazi invasion of Paris in June 1940 meant suppression of the "corrupt" influence of jazz in the French capital and danger of imprisonment for African Americans choosing to remain in the city. Most Americans, black as well as white, left Paris at this time.
The political upheavals surrounding the African-American Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War protests in the United States were mirrored by civil unrest in France. African-American journalist William Gardner Smith who was also a novelist (i.e., Last of the Conquerors), who worked for the French news service Agence France-Presse, reported the events of the student uprising in May 1968. Many blacks supported this movement, which escalated into a virtual shutdown of the entire country of France. Once order was restored however, a notable increase in repressive tendencies was observed in the French police and immigration authorities. In addition, the presence of newly arrived enclaves of blacks from many African and Caribbean nations offer African Americans the chance to experience new forms of black culture .
In 2011, rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z released the song "Niggas in Paris" as a single from their album Watch the Throne. The song is largely a social commentary about the two being young and wealthy African Americans living it up in Paris. The pair has been known to perform the song to raucous encores at their shows, performing it over ten times during their show in Paris in 2012.
Notable people in France of African American ancestry