African Americans in France
African Americans (also referred to as Afro-Americans or Black Americans) in France are 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.
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.[dead link]
Paris saw the beginnings of an African American community in the aftermath of World War I when about 200,000 were brought over, most for non-combat duties. Nine tenths of the soldiers were from the American South. The 369th Infantry Regiment of New York, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, were the first to arrive in France in 1917. One member, Sergeant Henry Johnson, was the first American Soldier to be awarded the croix de guerre with palm by the French Army. 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 then 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.
The Nazi German invasion of Paris in June 1940 led to the suppression of the "corrupt" influence of jazz in the French capital and the danger of imprisonment for African Americans choosing to remain in the city. Most Americans, black as well as white, left Paris at the time. Following World War II, the arrival of black immigrants from former French colonies had offered African Americans in France the chance to experience new forms of black culture.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the political upheavals surrounding the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War protests in the United States were mirrored by civil unrest in France. The African American journalist William Gardner Smith was a novelist (Last of the Conquerors) who worked for Agence France-Presse. That French news service reported the events of the student uprising during the May 1968 protests. Many blacks supported the movement, which escalated into a virtual shutdown of the entire country. Once order was restored, however, a notable increase in repressive tendencies was observed in the French police and the immigration authorities.
Tyler Stovall, a history professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has said:
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. Although their numbers never exceeded a few thousand.
- J. Alexander, model
- Josephine Baker, entertainer and actress
- Mickey Baker, influential guitarist in rock and roll, and rhythm and blues
- James Baldwin, author and essayist
- Sidney Bechet, jazz musician
- Arthur Briggs, jazz musician
- Eugene Bullard, world's first Black military pilot
- Barbara Chase-Riboud, novelist, poet, sculptor and visual artist
- Kenny Clarke, jazz musician
- Beauford Delaney, modernist painter
- Carole Fredericks, singer
- Johnny Griffin, jazz musician
- Chester Himes, crime novelist
- Quincy Jones, musician, composer, record producer
- Eartha Kitt, singer, actress, and entertainer
- Lenny Kravitz, rock musician
- Ealy Mays, painter
- Memphis Slim, blues pianist and singer
- Chloé Mortaud, Miss France, 2009
- Shaun Ollison, model, Ms. California 2000
- Rashaan Nall, actor, director, screenwriter, painter
- Lobo Nocho, jazz singer and painter who was romantically involved with Winston Churchill's daughter Sarah
- Tony Parker, basketball player for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets (born in Belgium, but raised in France)
- Melvin Sanders, professional basketball player
- Victor Séjour, playwright
- Nina Simone, jazz and blues singer, a prominent leader during the American Civil Rights Movement
- Ada "Bricktop" Smith, dancer, singer, vaudevillian, and self-described saloon-keeper
- William Gardner Smith, journalist, novelist, and editor
- Henry Ossawa Tanner, painter
- Dominique Wilkins, NBA Hall of Famer (born in France while his father was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force)
- Richard Wright, author of novels, short stories, and non-fiction
- Bessie Coleman, First African-American Pilot
- African-American diaspora
- Demographics of France
- Americans in France
- Immigration to France
- Ripmaster, Terence; Stovall, Tyler (August 1997). "Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light". The History Teacher. 30 (4): 513. doi:10.2307/494154. ISSN 0018-2745.
- "Newsletter". Discover Paris!. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
- "Kenny Clarke, Inventor Of Modern Jazz Drumming, At 100". NPR.org. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
- "Ernest ('Lobo') Nocho: Three Original Paintings". Between the Covers: African-Americana. 157. 2010. Archived from the original on 2013-05-23. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
- "Winston Churchill's Daughter May Wed Negro Artist". Jet Magazine. 1965-01-28. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
- Jenkins, Maureen. "African-Americans in Paris: 'It's always been about freedom for us'." CNN. February 25, 2013.