For the following Case Studies, I will use the blog commons as a repository for information about the people and places. After, I have listed some facts, I will write a “takeaway”.
Case Study 1: Eugene Bullard
Eugene Bullard’s is extremely important to my study of the African American Exodus to France, because he was notably one of the African Americans that paved the way for other sojourners.
Here are some factoids:
- Most notably he was “the first military pilot” and he was “one of only two black combat pilots in World War I”
- He was born in “Columbus, Georgia”. However, his journey truly began when he was a teenager. As a teenager Bullard stowed away on a ship headed to Scotland. The reason for leaving: to escape racism.
- “Bullard arrived at Aberdeen before making his way south to Glasgow. He became a boxer in England and also worked in a music hall.” Bullard Fact.
- “On a visit to Paris, Bullard decided to settle in France. At the outbreak of World War I, according to his personnel file at the French Ministry of Defense, he enlisted on October 19, 1914 in the 1st Regiment of Foreign Legion (1er Régiment étranger) since volunteers from overseas in 1914 were allowed to serve only in the French colonial troops.”
- “As a part of the 170th Infantry, Bullard fought and was seriously wounded in March 1916 during the Battle of Verdun. After recovering from his wounds, Bullard volunteered on October 2, 1916 to join the French Air Service (Aéronautique Militaire) as an air gunner, and went through training at the Aerial Gunnery School in Cazaux, Gironde.” Facts
- “For his World War I service Bullard was awarded the Croix de Guerre, Médaille militaire, Croix du combattant volontaire 1914–1918, and Médaille de Verdun, among others.Following his discharge, Bullard returned to Paris.”
- “In Paris, Bullard found employment as a drummer and a nightclub manager at “Le Grand Duc” and eventually became the owner of his own nightclub, “L’Escadrille”. He married Marcelle Straumann from a wealthy family in 1923, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1935, with Bullard gaining custody of their two surviving children, daughters Jacqueline and Lolita. As a popular jazz venue, “Le Grand Duc” gained him many famous friends, including Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Langston Hughes and French flying ace Charles Nungesser. When World War II began in September 1939, Bullard, who spoke German, agreed to a request from the French government to spy on Germans frequenting his nightclub.”
- “After the German invasion of France in May 1940, Bullard fled from Paris with his daughters. He volunteered with the 51st Infantry defending Orléans when he met an officer whom he knew from fighting at Verdun. He was wounded in the fighting but was able to escape to neutral Spain, and in July 1940 he returned to the United States.”
- “Bullard spent some time in a New York hospital and never fully recovered from his wound. Moreover, he found the fame he enjoyed in France had not followed him to the United States. He worked as a perfume salesman, a security guard, and as an interpreter for Louis Armstrong, but his back injury severely restricted him. He attempted to regain his nightclub in Paris, but his property had been destroyed during the WWII. He received a financial settlement from the French government, which he used to buy an apartment in Harlem, New York City.”
- “In the 1950s, Bullard was a relative stranger in his own homeland. His daughters had married, and he lived alone in his apartment, which was decorated with pictures of his famous friends and a framed case containing his fifteen French war medals. His final job was as an elevator operator at the Rockefeller Center, where his fame as the “Black Swallow of Death” was unknown.”
- “In 1954, the French government invited Bullard to Paris to help rekindle the everlasting flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. In 1959 he was made a chevalier (knight) of the Légion d’honneur. While this gained him some recognition, his last years were spent in relative obscurity and poverty in New York City.”
- “In 1959 at age 65, he was named Knight of the Legion of Honor in a lavish ceremony in New York City. Dave Garraway interviewed him on the Today Show, still America did nothing to acknowledge this honor or acknowledge his place in history.”
- “President-General Charles de Gaulle of France, while visiting New York City, publically and internationally embraced Eugene Bullard as a true French hero in 1960.”
- He died in New York City of stomach cancer on October 12, 1961 at age 66. Eugene Bullard was buried with military honors in the French War Veterans’ section of Flushing Cemetery in the New York City borough of Queens.” Fact.
Eugene Bullard is extremely important to this study because he exemplifies the difference in the French and American perspectives. When learning about his story, I could not believe his transition from being a celebrated man in France to an elevator operator.
During my various Black Paris history tours, Bullard was consistently mentioned as a staple in the Black Paris experience. I believe Bullard’s story is essential, because it introduced me to the non romantic Paris experience. When I chose this study, I was fascinated by the pièce de résistance of Paris. Even though, I am still searching for that characteristic, I believe Eugene Bullard’s story presented the reality and necessity of Paris because it helps my study get to the brass tax of the Exodus to Paris. The brass tax is that African Americans were fleeing racism and in order to do this, some African Americans followed the myth of Paris. Of which they created a reality of acceptance, appreciation, and great expectations that were previously not considered in their home country.
Chivalette, William I. “Corporal Eugene Jacques Bullard First Black American Fighter Pilot.” Air & Space Power Journal. N.p., n.d. Web.
“Eugene Bullard.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 31 Aug. 2013.
Garner, Carla W. “Bullard, Eugene Jacques (1894-1961) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.” BlackPast.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2013.
Note that he was “publicly acknowledged” by President-General Charles de Gaulle of France.