Author Archives: Elizabeth-Burton Jones

About Elizabeth-Burton Jones

I love to sing and dream big. I am an optimistic and energetic person that is ready to work.

African American Exodus to Paris

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
Paris Final Paper

African American Exodus to Paris

Introduction:

Cultures are living and breathing institutions and organisms. There are many pieces and parts that govern the functionality of a culture in various settings. These pieces and parts include parts of the mental framework, actual body parts, but most definitive is the color of the culture’s skin.

Color lines are still prominent today, however in the 1900’s to 1920’s, skin color granted or denied access to every path, specifically in the United States with regards to the African American culture. Such definitive access made the day in the life of an African American difficult and without much mobility. To counter the lack of access, many African Americans fled to Europe in hopes of finding out if the colorblind myth truly existed.

Accordingly, this final project will attempt to better understand the African American culture while inhabiting Paris, France. By exploring the ideas of cultural access, primitivism, and cultural memory, I will attempt to examine the motives of African American Exodus to Paris from the 1900’s and during the Interwar Time period (1920s-1930s). But, most importantly, I will explore the absence of African American memory in Paris.  All of this information will synthesize with a trip to Paris to better understand the context of the situation.

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During August 2013 I flew to Paris, France to research the African American Exodus for the Special Topics in CCT course. I visited jazz clubs, museums, and soaked in the liberation as a part of my research.  In Paris I stayed on the Left Bank, I experienced the culture, interviewed diverse people, ate the food, traveled as Parisians travel and researched. I took multiple tours about the city of Paris. I also took tours that focused on the African American Exodus to Paris.

African American Cultural Access:

At the dawn of the 1900s in American, labor based slavery ended but mental slavery, that started ions prior, had fully developed. When referring to mental slavery, I am suggesting the mental tug of war between being a human being encapsulated in a skin color that does not let your will run free. But, before this study can properly access the ideas that surround the notion of the black self, it is imperative to skim the influencers of the construct.

Cosmopolitanism
Beginspells

The universe is connected by nodes of networks that govern hegemony. Every way that a person is connected is governed through the their own existential place in the world. One way of looking at the notion of finding a place in the world is through “cosmopolitanism”.

“’Cosmopolitanism,”” the central term of Color and Culture, was first given expression in the West by the Greek Cynic Diogenes in the fourth century and the Cynic-influenced Stoics of the third century. It meant seeing oneself as ‘a citizen of the world,’ connected in a fundamental way to those outside family groups and conventional polities, yet without precluding the possibility of local connections.” (Friedel 5)

To better understand cosmopolitanism, it can be illustrated by the final Harry Potter film. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part two, there is a glorious scene where people of all walks of being come together to protect the power of good against the Dark Lord. In a scene before the battle is begun, the wizards that are on Harry’s side, flick their wands to the sky and white orbs expel from their wands. Thousands of orbs create a connection, which appears to be a network of protection. This is how I envision cosmopolitanism, having each orb of light, no matter the origin, coming together and creating a collective safe space for creativity.

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Accordingly, Immanuel Kant further enhances this positive slant on cosmopolitanism. In Perpetual Peace, Kant adds a layer to the notion of cosmopolitanism. This layer is hospitality. “Hospitality means the right of a stranger not to be treated as an enemy when he arrives in the land of another.” (Kant 20) a neoclassical approach to hospitality spawns from the idea of the protective collective. In this group people are welcoming and connected through fibers of universality.

The universality perspective is also looked at through the Enlightenment. “In Perpetual Peace (1795) Kant, along with many other Enlightenment thinkers, adopts a cosmopolitan perspective when he argues that individuals have rights as ‘citizens of the earth’ rather than as citizens of particular states.” (Friedel 5). Through this lens, it is important to think of the audience and ask: for whom was Cosmopolitanism created?

download (3)With regard to definition of a person’s place in the world, Nwankwo, defines the personal place in the world as a place for “Cosmopolitanism, the definition of oneself through that world beyond one’s own origins, was a crucial element of modernity (and the Enlightenment). Imperialism and Orientalism were in fact forms of European cosmopolitanism, and more specifically of the ways Europeans constructed their definitions of self and community in relation to and through their relationship to the broader world. “ (Nwankwo 9). Accordingly, cosmopolitanism is juxtaposed by identity and personal place in the world.

Therefore, it is important to assess the self and the individual psychological cosmopolitanism then the collective cosmopolitanism. Therefore, Friedel mentions that, “A cosmopolitan position implies an overarching concern for humanity that requires an acknowledgement of the important particularities of local identity claims…cosmopolitanism respects difference while asserting a common ground of equality that mediates between the particular and the universal.” (Friedel 6).  Identify paired with cosmopolitanism is a very complex paradigm. Therefore, to narrow the idea of cosmopolitanism down, the paper will focus on the African American take on cosmopolitanism known as Black cosmopolitanism.

Black Cosmopolitanism

The idea of cosmopolitanism sounds amazing writhing with endless possibilities of positive interconnectedness. However, at the same time, the idea is very limiting especially during the 1900’s and the years that closely embrace it. On the larger scale, cosmopolitanism was an impossible ideal for people of color.

Unbelievably Racist Vintage Valentine's Day Cards (2) This was an impossible idea mainly because of descent. “People of African descent’s approaches to public self-representation were born, in significant part, of the Atlantic power structure’s attempts to deny them access to cosmopolitan subjectivity” (Nwankwo 10). Therefore, in a time where cosmopolitanism was popular, it was selectively accessible.

The selection of who could live the ideal was mainly determined by the color of a person’s skin. “…race effectively determining the possible parameters of identity for people of African descent.” (Nwankwo 10) This selection had major ramifications on the ways in which African American people were allowed to physically and mentally move about their country.

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The biggest fallacy with cosmopolitanism is the way in which people could assess it. For African Americans in the United States in the 1900’s cosmopolitanism was extremely binary. African Americans had to jump through various hoops and this changed the definition of their world. For instance, for Caucasian people of the time, the world had many continents and various lands. But for African Americans of the time, the world possibly only extended down the road to the local downtown. Yet, when they would arrive to the downtown area, it their world was further deduced to color lines.

 

These color lines included white only and black only movie theatre seats, schools, water fountains, etc. Plus, the quality was further shrunk as well. The quality of the color coordinated facilities were very black and white in that the black facilities were usually dilapidated and the white facilities were usually of fair condition. Therefore, city life was the first hoop. The second hoop mainly included, state life, in certain states at this time slavery or the institutionalized internalized social constructs of inferiority and superiority based on race were still prevalent. Therefore, states were speed bumps as well. Finally, the country as a whole was so uncertain of feelings for African Americans (and other minorities), that it is too hard to gauge what the national identity or picture of the standard African American.

Even though, we do not know how the nation as a whole thought about African American’s, we can look at how African Americans addressed their strife. Nwankwo provides a glimpse for what the African American standard could have been during this time. “They also sought to free themselves from the concomitant understanding of them as uncivilized beings, and to prove [themselves] part of the civilized (aka modern) world.” (Nwankwo 19). The notion of having to prove one’s self is hard to imagine when there aren’t encouraging bodies outside of your culture.

Byproducts of Comparison

download (1)In order to further assess the state of the African American during the turn of the century, this paper will compare the ideas of habitus and double consciousness and the paper will pair symbolic culture with the idea of the black body.

When assessing the idea of capital Pierre Bourdieu says that capital does not have inertia (Bourdieu).  He says that, “at each moment anyone can become anything” (Bourdieu). Therefore, in the world of capital, everything is fair game.

However, with regards to symbolic capital, that is not the case. With symbolic capital, “Each field of symbolic capital reproduced the system of unequal relations in the economic field (relations of class and power) and, in doing so, reproduces the fundamental structure of social inequality” (Grenfell and Moore 104). Therefore, symbolic capital creates a divide in the free capital world.

images (1)Furthermore, the symbolic actors create “…Symbolic fields, on the bases of their specific principles, establish hierarchies of discrimination (some things are better or more worthy than others).” (Grenfell and Moore 104). Therefore, symbolic capital creates internal and external hierarchies.

Frantz Fanon further explains these internal hierarchies in literature. In Fanon’s idea about the Black body, Fanon argues that the color of one’s skin creates a symbol of inferiority and hierarchy. Skin color becomes away of categorizing people. “Every position of one’s own, every effort at security, is based on relations of dependence, with the diminution of the other.” (Fanon 164). The idea of “dependence” has internal and external ramifications.

The symbolic color of skin becomes a symbol of history of either oppression or dominance. For instance, Fanon says that, “It was on the universal level of the intellect that I understood this inner kinship—I was the grandson of slaves in exactly the same way in which President Lebrun was the grandson of tax-paying, hard-working peasants.” (Fanon 85). Skin color becomes the signifier and it creates prejudices.

Habitus and Double Consciousness
Habitus

According to the lens of symbolic culture, habitus is an actor in the cognitive realm.

Symbolic capital, that is to say, capital — in whatever form — insofar as it is represented, i.e. , apprehended symbolically, in a relationship of knowledge or, more precisely, of misrecognition and recognition, presupposes the intervention of the habitus, as a socially constituted cognitive capacity .” (Bourdieu footnotes of the reading). So this definition suggests that habitus is “as a socially constituted cognitive capacity” which could be analyzed as being a way of thinking that is the residue of societal influence.

In addition another adaptation of habitus comes from Grenfell and Moore. They assess habitus as “habitus with reference to inner-consciousness and practice” (Grenfell and Moore 110).  This definition stresses the idea of the internal dimensions of consciousness. Therefore, both definitions take into consideration the ability to map out the mind and the way that it works.

Therefore by addressing the definitions by Bourdieu and the adaptation by Grenfell and Moore Habitus is approached as a form of the consciousness that is “socially constituted”.

Accordingly, it fits nicely with the DuBoisian theory of double consciousness. According to W.E.B. DuBois double consciousness is:

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa; he does not with to bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he believes—foolishly, perhaps, but fervently—that Negro blood has yet a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without losing the opportunity of self-development.” (W.E.B. DuBois)

This seminal source offers the blue print for double consciousness. It grants depth to the concept of the self.

Therefore, if both definitions of habitus and double consciousness are paired together, then they grant credence to an internal battle for societal acceptance. Habitus is an internal battle for social acceptance because it is “socially constituted” instead of organically constituted. Also, double consciousness yearns for societal acceptance instead of second-class citizenship based on race.

All Together:

mixing bowl

Through each facet through the studies of symbolic capital, the black body, habitus, and double consciousness, they offer a multidimensional approach to the African American Exodus to Paris. Meaning, that symbolically, the Black body is inferior and this changes the mental framework of a Black persons existentialism. As a result, the individual is inherently aware that he or she is inferior solely because of classification. This was the obstacle course that Black people of the early 1900’s had to go through every day if not every hour.

Primitivism:
The-Jazz-Century-The-Jazz-008To help illustrate the obstacle of symbolic culture, there is the notion of primitivism. Two examples of de-blackboxing the propaganda of primitivism include W.E.B. Dubois’ Paris Exposition and the Branly Exposition.

Primitivism is typically viewed as less sophisticated. To assess the definition of primitivism, Nwankwo mentions that it was a tactic of dehumanization. He says that:

“Implicit in the Atlantic power structures’ fear of violent uprising and designation of people of African descent as less than a whole (hu)man was the notion that they were primitive savages, that is to say, premodern barbarians. The perception of people of African descent as less than human and not worthy of being seen as equal to those of European descent operated in tandem with the construction of people of African descent as an antithesis of the modern.” (Nwankwo 9)

Therefore, primitivism was an idea used to dehumanize minorities. It can be obscene in nature.

It is necessary to echo the idea about primitivism and the negative aspects because it initiates all of the problems in the paper. In the realm of African Americans, W.E.B. Dubois tried to combat these “savage” ideas not only by theories, but also by photography with many exhibits. One exhibit that stands out above the rest is the 1900 Paris Exposition. The Exposition is a mash-up of culture and the physical nature of the African American:

“Further, while the first images in Du Bois’s 1900 Paris Exposition albums formally recall the photographs that eugenicists and biological racialists used to codify bodies in racial terms, Du Bois’s albums as a whole dismantle the physical coherence of the imagined racial type, disengaging the images of African American men and women from the circumscription of a sliding evolutionary scale.” (Smith 61)

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These images are very important because they counter the primitive image. They show the world that African Americans are more than their race, that they are people. Through these pictures, DuBois gives visual depth to the African American race by showing various facets of the race. Du Bois subjects or “types” display “a diverse array of individuals not bound by physical appearance, by the ‘hair and one and color’ that Du Bois rejects as singular signs of racial belonging in his 1897essay ‘The Conservation of Races.’ In Du Bois’s albums, blond and pale ‘Negro types’ are placed beside brunette and brown ones, a juxtaposition that challenges color codifications as markers of racial difference and the body itself as a sign of racial meaning” (Smith 61). This propaganda attempted to chip away at the standard of primitivism.

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In today’s world these images might not be as shocking because the world is becoming more diverse. However, in the 1900s race had boundaries such as where people could go, what they could do, and so on. Race was definitive. Also, race was pictured in very demeaning ways. For instance, DuBois created images and postures of sophistication in his photographs and this countered biological racist images where the cultural subjects were pictured naked and primitive (Smith 46-47).

 

 

 

 

Musée du Quai Branly

Another opinion of primitivism comes from Charles Ratton who collected primitive works of art. However, instead of using the images as a tool for inferiority, he aimed to fetishize the primitive way of life.

“He realised that these arts that we inaccurately term ‘primitive’ obey the same laws and are deserving of the same esteem as the classical arts and those of Asia, the latter being known and appreciated themselves for scarcely forty years. He decided to devote himself entirely to them.” —Charles Ratton about himself. (Art Daily).

He attempted to grant further agency to primitive work.

Both DuBois and Ratton attempted to change a standard so they used visual mediums. They were both a means to the end of misunderstanding just through different lenses. For instance, DuBois showed various depictions of African American’s to breakdown classifications and challenges the ideas of classification. Here are some images from the exhibit that I visited while I was in Paris.

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Ratton, wanted to grant more agency to primitive art. This is an interesting concept because it seems difficult to do based on the images and pieces of art. Most of the images in the exhibit are either over sexualized or are extreme from the classics. This is paired with interesting layouts. For instance, there was one room that was an office room with the primitive art as a decoration. The primitive art as a decoration could either be a marketing ploy to show that primitive art can be an office trinket, which could be an artistic way of supporting colonialism. Or this idea could signify the different of economic status and dominance. Either way, it is an interesting dichotomy. Here are some pictures of the movie clips:

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However, the most confusing connection was a small screen in the back corner of the exhibit. In this corner, the exhibit displayed an old African American movie. This movie was an all African American cast and the language that was used was very stereotypical of older films (broken English and grammatical errors). I found this to be quite interesting because I wasn’t sure of the connection between the primitive art and the movie.

One can assume that the map of the room was possibly suggesting a connection between the primitive art and the primitive African American stereotype.

However, if both of the exhibits are placed on the same playing field, then it can be deduced that the both contributors are trying to address the boxed in definition of primitivism and trying to create another point of view. DuBois is trying to change the standard of dehumanizing the African American image and Ratton is attempting to enhance interest in primitive art in efforts to make it a high culture medium.

The Exodus

Another approach to assessing dehumanizing views was the Exodus. This means that the people would leave America for Europe.

download (2) With all of these roadblocks, it seems as though Paris was the agora for social change. In accordance, many African Americans made the Exodus to Paris to see if the myth of acceptance and change were true. Many influential African Americans like Mary Church Terrill, Bessie Coleman, and Mary Mcloud Bethune. Just to name a few. African Americans from all disciplines visited Paris. There were myths that people could “artists and performers sought refuge from American racism, places to just be themselves and practice their craft.” (Bennefield).

 

All Pictures 8.14.13 271As a graduate student, reading all of the books and watching videos still left me wondering about actual life in Paris. I sort of had my own Exodus.

Is there an actual difference? Is the “veil” removed? So I decided to find out. From previous travels to Italy, I knew that there was more of a feeling of acceptance.

In Paris, it was the same living by myself in Paris, France for two weeks opened my eyes to the sights and sounds and goose bumps of acceptance. The first difference was a lack of definition. In Paris, I did not have to define myself by race. No one really asked me and if people asked, it was to find out what country I was from. Even though asking which country a person is from is quite similar to asking what race or breeding a person has, it felt differently.

Another point of definition was my appearance. I didn’t have to define my appearance. I could wear whatever I wanted. I could take risks or I could abide by whatever fashion codes that I wanted to at that moment. I should mention, that Paris of course is a fashion capitol, and I am typically a fashionable person, therefore I imagined that every day while in Paris, I would have to wear pieces of haute couture to go to the grocery store. But, that wasn’t the case. The style that I typically wear which is more of a “dressy casual” was the standard in Paris.

My hair was not defined. As a person of color, my hair is sometimes considered a threat to airspace. All jokes aside, there are plenty of Black hair philosophies with regards to letting the hair go natural or suppressing it with the straightener. In America as an effect of the construct that curly hair is not professional or wild, I sometimes feel the need to straighten it because so I don’t stand out, so that I become in with the mix. However, in Paris, I could style my hair in any way. The curls could get big and frizzy, but that was a norm. Many people in Paris had curly and wavy hair.

Bottom-line, I felt as though I belonged. I do not speak that much French and I actually had a French tutor and read books on how to pronounce French words, and I listened to tape that taught the language before I left, but that wasn’t necessary. People understood that French wasn’t my first language, and as long as I was polite SVP, then the French were polite to me.

Nevertheless, I still love being an American and all of the affordances the country gives me. However, I had to go and experience to better inform my writing.

When I boarded the plane for Paris, I knew that this trip would forever change my life. I knew that I was joining the ranks of the countless African Americans that sought artistic and educational freedom. Similarly, when I boarded the plane to head back to America, I knew that I would take this trip with me in my heart everyday. The opportunity to live, breath, and move within a culture that I innately felt comfortable in is indescribable but extremely important at the same time.

Accordingly, if this trip was and is extremely life changing for me, and extremely life-changing for the African American people of the 1900s and Interwar Paris, then how is this story cultivated?

While growing up, whether during black history month or during my undergraduate African American history class, the idea of African American leaving America for Europe always entranced me. Even though this subject was only covered for a portion of a class or a few paragraphs in a book, I always wanted to know more. This lack of depth in the field of expatriates or even travellers, is a very crucial missing part to African American history. It is only acknowledged briefly and it is only memorialized two times in Paris (Josephine Baker and Richard Wright) (Bennefield). So what does this mean to the African American music culture.

To further explore this area, we must set ourselves into Black Paris. We must imagine the life the longing and the appreciation for a space in which people could freely express their interests in music.

Sounds of Black Paris

“LUMUMBA LOUIS ARMSTRONG
PATRICE AND PATTI PAGE
HAMUBURGERS PEPSI-COLA
KING COLE JUKEBOX PAYOLA
IN THE QUARTER OF THE NEGROES
GOD WILLING DROP A SHILLING
FORT DE FRANCE, PLACE PIGALLE
VINGT FRANCS NICKEL DIME
BAHIA LAGOS DAKAR LENOX
KINGSTON TOO GOD WILLING
A QUARTER OR A SHILLING. PARIS—
AT THE DOME VINGT FRANCS WILL DO
ROTONDE SELECT DUPONT FLORE
TALL BLACK STUDENT
IN HORN-RIM GLASSES
WHO AT THE SORBONNE HAS SIX CLASSES,
IN THE SHADOW OF THE CLUNY
CONJURES UNICORN,
SPEAKS ENGLISH FRENCH SWAHILI
HAS ALMOST FORGOTTEN NEALIE.
BUT WHY RIDE ON MULE OR DONKEY
WHEN THERE’S A UNICORN?
NIGHT IN A SÉKOU TOURÉ CAP
DRESSED LIKE A TEDDY BOY
BLOTS COLORS OFF THE MAP.
PERHAPS IF IT BE GOD’S WILL
AZIKIWE’S SON, AMEKA,
SHAKES HANDS WITH EMMETT TILL.”
—Langston Hughes, ASK YOUR MAMA (Elkin)

Road map around Paris

In Paris, in the 1900’s artists flocked to find liberation. This community formed into an artist’s dream:

“By the early 1920s a tiny black community had taken root in Paris. It was a diverse assemblage of people, who had come to the French capital by many different roads and for many different reasons. Some had been attracted by the legends of intimate cafes and the bright lights of the Champs-Elysees, whereas others came there as self-conscious refugees from American racism” (Stovall 34)

Paris was the place to experience sites, sounds, tastes, and all of the senses.

“I’m not gonna spend my life being a color” –Michael Jackson “Black or White”

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Typically when African Americans made the journey to Paris in the 1920s, they gathered in Montmartre (Stovall 40). The settlement of Monmartre is an interesting dichotomy. On one side, it is in Paris and it is a place where African Americans can feel free to be humans instead of color. However, at the same time, the location of Montmartre was not as empowering.

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“Like Harlem, Monmartre was an area with a seedy reputation located north of the places inhabited by the wealthy and genteel, who came to visit it in the dead of night to finish up an evening on the town. Both areas were the centers of the local black population, and places where whites intent on exotic slumming could come to experience black culture” (Stovall 43-44).

Montmartre was a place to go to revel in the promiscuous ways of life. Therefore, this casts a grey shadow of the Parisian experience because of the promiscuity. Having the center of the early 1900s and Interwar Paris a site for promiscuity is an interesting effect because promiscuity is usually linked to describing African American women. Going back to the days of slavery, “…slave owners portrayed enslaved women as promiscuous, immoral  Jezebels who seduced their masters. Consequently, there were no legal or social sanctions against raping Black women (West,2002b).” (West 1491). Therefore, was Monmartre just another extension of a promiscuous ownership of the Black body? Even though there were monetary determinants that made Monmartre the center for Blacks in Paris during the 1900s and Interwar Paris, the promiscuity is just accepted in the area.

Photo during a personalized tour of Montmartre

Photo during a personalized tour of Montmartre

When I visited Montmartre for the first time, I was shocked. I did not believe that this was the hub for the foundation of Black empowerment in Paris. As I walked by the Moulin Rouge and other cabarets, I was in disbelief. I walked through a market crowded with people clamoring over goods. It was not what I envisioned. It was not what I had in my cultural memory. Instead, my cultural memory alluded to the hub of African American empowerment, on the Left Bank in San Germain-de Pres (which the would happen later). My cultural memory, all of the glamour that was portrayed in the days of Josephine Baker and her colleagues, was not there so accordingly I thought I was lost and that I wasn’t in the right place. Even though Monmartre is an interesting area and the view from the SacréCœur is beautiful, my positive slant was slightly jilted.

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Images from tour of Montmartre:

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The gilt might come from a positive slant on stories that are ultimately written in books and disseminated to the youth. In the African American culture, stories are created in a legendary way because they piece together the positive parts and create a patchwork for positive memory. “The term African American symbolizes a unique storytelling tradition that is a synthesis of values and rituals rooted in African and American societies (Faulkner, 1977; Hamilton, 1985;Stewart, 1997).” (Banks-Wallace 410). Through the patchwork, negative memories are usually hidden. These aspects are hidden possibly because these stories could be creating a positive standard for the race. Just as W.E.B. DuBois’ photographs illustrated mainly highly sophisticated subjects, African American stories tend to only highlight the positive as a way of conquering images and stories used to negatively categorize the race.

Accordingly, by sifting out negative images to construct a positive image, this bleeds into positive story telling because the image was carefully constructed and would not want to be negatively communicated through story telling. “Many women have been taught that sharing stories about the interiors of African American life is disloyal to ‘The Race.’ Dangerous, or both. To avoid sharing stories, some people become very silent…” (Banks-Wallace 420). Sharing interior stories could be dangerous because they can reveal the underpinnings of the double conscious. As mentioned before, most African Americans walk through life with two senses of self-based on interaction with other races. Therefore, double consciousness is further constructed by stories because the storytellers are forever cognizant of the ramifications.

This leads to the power of the storyteller. Whether the storyteller is a photographer or a historian, there is power in the way that the story is remembered. With regards to bus tours, I took multiple. I rode around the city for days to discover how the history of Paris is disseminated for tour groups. I went to museums to explore exhibits to see how the history was portrayed. I discovered that the tales of the African Americans that travelled to Paris were not told in great detail or at all on the commercial tours. They were only told when I went on cultural specific tours.

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Tour Group

 

Montmartre Tour Guide

Montmartre Tour Guide

Furthermore there is power in the actual infrastructure of the city. For instance, in Paris the myths of Montmatre as Harlem are only for the pure imagination.

While walking down the streets of Montmartre on a tour, the tour guide mentioned the hustle and bustle that happened in the area. The parties that were thrown the Black opulence that overflowed the streets. The music that caressed eardrums into a daze.

While on tour in Montmartre a luxurious car happened to drive down the street. It helped paint the picture of the scene years ago.

While on tour in Montmartre a luxurious car happened to drive down the street. It helped paint the picture of the scene years ago.

Those were the days. The days in the twenties are mere memories constructed by vast storytellers of the African American interaction in Paris. These stories follow similar formats for they are based on other stories from the time. Therefore, the stories are meta stories.

But, no matter the way that the story was told, there is still an absence. An absence in the infrastructure. As the tour guide and I leisurely strolled down the streets of Paris with our snacks and drinks, I was forced to create a synthesis from her words. I was told to imagine the way that the city was. Imagine the hustle and bustle of the empowerment. Imagine seeing Langston Hughes as a busboy. Imagine Josephine Baker strolling and her glamorous outfits twinkling in the moonlight. Imagine.

But, the imagination was stifled by the appearance. Now the area is different. Facades have come and gone. People have moved in and out. The only real marker of the significance of the area is a small square sign that denotes the street name.

In the area, there isn’t a plaque that notes the African Americans that were the legends. There are only shifting buildings keeping up with a new era. Yet, this place is important. This area is integral to the hope of an empowered African American. This place is where people could be free.

To demonstrate the emptiness of the space, there is the story of Eugene Bullard.

Eugene Bullard: “Combat pilot, nightclub owner and manager Bullard was a major player I the night life of Black Paris during the interwar years. He was finally driven from his adopted country by the Nazi invasion of Paris during World War II.” (Anderson and Wells 90). Bullard was thoroughly praised in Paris yet not in his home country. He was known as a French national hero for his commitment in the armed forces (Chivalette).

“At the nightclub, Le Grand Duc, where he was the host and part owner, Bullard entertained the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gloria Swanson and England’s Prince of Wales. He opened his own club soon after his marriage which soon became one of Paris’ most famous entertainment spots for singers and musicians of the time.” (Chivalette) In Paris he was not only successful, but he was also honored.

Yet, when he came back to America the hero received “… work as an elevator operator in Rockefeller Center. It was the job he would hold until he retired.” (Chivalette).

Other highlights of his life include that                                                                                             ”…French government requested his presence to help relight the Eternal Flame of the Tomb of the Unknown French Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris…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.” (Chivalette).

The trend as noted by Chivalette is that America as a whole never acknowledged his accomplishments publicly as France did.

France honored him in life and death.                                                                                           “On 12 October, 1961, after suffering a long illness due to the wounds he received, Eugene Jacques Bullard passed away… On 17 October, with the tri-color of France draping his coffin, he was laid to rest with full honors by the Federation of French War Officers at Flushing Cemetery in New York.” (Chivalette)

Yet, the common denominator is that France remembered Eugene Bullard through actions and not monuments. This begs the question of the importance of physical objects and outward gestures.

Usually power is prominent through infrastructure. This paper will approach infrastructure as different forms of monuments and physical buildings and markers. In Paris, there are a plethora of markers and monuments for the French. Everywhere that a person walks is practically a chapter in a history book.

Accordingly, these chapters or these areas are heavily marked in one way or another by bus tours that discharge busload after busload of tourists at these sites or merely having a statue in an area. The statue signifies importance. Yet, with regards to the African American interwar experience in Paris, there are few markers and it forces a person to be creative. For instance the street sign of Pigalle becomes a monument in a way.

Yet, this leads to the bigger issue of power and the African Americans. “As Foucault (1977) put it, “Since memory is actually a very important factor in struggle… if one controls people’s memory, one controls their dynamism.” (Olick and Robbins 126). Therefore, if power determines what is remembered then it equally determines what is forgotten.

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The legends of Pigalle are not formally marked with a memorial. For instance with regards to cultural memory, there isn’t actual marker that signifies the place as there is just down the rad one can find the Moulin Rouge preserved with all of its significance.

Why is it important because as the years go by and people begin to forget the correct stories, what will be left? How will people know that there is such a presence and importance down these streets?

Most of the city of Paris is constructed in an antimodernist way. From an antimodernist perspective, is:                                                                                                                       “… the disposition of those who felt a discomfort…for the modernity of industrial, urban society. Antimodernists valued the singular artistry of the work of the master craftsman and disdained a modernity that replaced the artisan’s work with mass-produced objects, food, and architecture that antimodernists considered to be neither prettier nor better made” (Hobbs 54).

With the antimodern perspective this could describe why African Americans are not memorialized in Paris, because they came in a modern time after the marvels of the city were already made. But is that true? Who constitutes what is modern and at what time that it is purely modern? However, I’m not sure if that is an accurate reason for the disconnect.

The real question is where are the African American people? In Paris, everywhere I went there was some sort of monument and some sort of historical significance. Every when I would go out for a night on the town in Bastille, even though the places that I went were not historically marked there was still the knowledge of the area and the historical significance. But, I didn’t find this to be true for African Americans. With this specific culture, I did not find many references to their important Exodus. This story of the countless of African Americans is crucial to African American history studies and we learn about it all the time, yet the same markers and significance are not reciprocated.

There are only two African American people that are memorialized in Paris. “Josephine Baker and Richard Wright are the only two African Americans in Paris memorialized with a plaque in the city because they became Paris citizens, according to Ealy.” (Bennefield)

Josephine Baker Hotel

Josephine Baker Hotel

Paris 2013 City of Light 166

With regards to physical monuments, Josephine Baker has a square, the hotel, and there are hints of Josephine Baker’s influence in many current ad campaigns in current day Paris.

 

According to the time frame, Josephine Baker represents the whole of African Americans that made the Exodus in the 1900s and Interwar Paris.

Josephine-Baker-1920s-With-Cheetah

Josephine Baker was a “Performer. Baker went to Paris in 1925 with the show La Revue Négre  and enjoyed overnight success in her role. She adopted France as he home country, always returning even though her singing and acting career took her all over the world. She died in Paris in 1975” (Anderson and Wells 88). Josephine Baker was a remarkable woman that challenged primitivism, was a French spy, and believed in diversity and the Parisians loved her. When she died, “Josephine Baker’s funeral on April 15, 1975, formed a spectacular finale to her unique career. The French government gave her a state funeral at the city’s impressive Madeline church, the first American woman it had ever honored in this way.” (Stovall 286). This is an incredible honor for Josephine and the state funeral was a first, with regards to an American woman being honored this way. Yet, is this memorialized? How do people know that the first American woman to have a state funeral in the Madeline church was an African American woman? It is not taught so does that mean it’s not remembered.

However, one way that Josephine Baker is remembered is through an area of town that is marked in her honor. “Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi christened ‘La Place Josephine Baker’ after the American-born singer, social activist and French national hero who made the French capital her home for a half-century.” (Cox News Service). This is important.

When I visited this square, after getting lost in the city, I found it to be quiet interesting and up to interpretation. For many people, this square means many different things. For a dancer, this square recognizes the beauty of being different while creating your art. For a person in the military, this square exudes sacrifice and gull. For an academic, this square represents movements for recognizing more African Americans that prized Paris as their home and finally felt accepted as humans.

Being in this square it is clear, that memory is not just for the books, but it is for hope. In regards to hope, or in this case hope of a culture, there are trials and offsets of mental slavery that this square helps breakdown because it remembers a person that represents a people that fled to Paris to escape oppression.

Musical interlude

Another way that people are remembering African Americans and the African American musicians is through the jazz club scene and performing standards. On some nights, in Paris, I would travel to jazz clubs such as Ducs des Lombards and Caveau de la Huchette. I would interview the artists and spectators. One night at the Ducs des Lombards the band played originals but the covered the standards like “Besame Mucho”, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “Battle Hymn Of The Republic ”.

 http://youtu.be/uPF-R2KuPM0

During the intermission, I interviewed the band. The leader of the band did not speak that much English, so I asked a fellow band mate to translate for me. The takeaway from the interview was that most of his inspiration artists were African Americans. At one point, the bandleader said that he “is black”. Even though I’m not sure of the context that he was referring to, but nonetheless there was a connection that he made through the music that honored these musicians.

Pictures from some interviews and conversations:

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Duc des Lombards

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Duc des Lombards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunset/Sunside

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Caveau de la Huchette

Caveau de la Huchette

Caveau de la Huchette

At the Caveau de la Huchette, I interviewed a lot of people. When I interviewed a man that claimed Geneva and Paris, about race he told me that race does not matter. I asked a young woman why she comes to jazz clubs and she said that  the music makes her feel clever it opens her mind. She also commented on that it was a soulful experience. I interviewed a family from Germany as well and they said that this was their first time at a jazz club. As the night rolled on an people filled the dance floor the German family eased into the feeling that they could dance to jazz music. It was great watching their inhibitions dissipate.

Also, I interviewed a man from Pennsylvania that said that I should instead check out Japanese Jazz culture. As the night rolled on and the band took their first break, I chatted with the bass player who identified as a music producer and musician.  We chatted about the generational shift between the old wave of jazz and the new wave of jazz. This new wave could be thought of as a different form of jazz culture.

“Gotta have a gimmick” – Gypsy

The new wave audience is changing. Before, the predominant people that listened and performed jazz in Paris were the African Americans. But, while in Paris, I witnessed that all of the musicians were Caucasian and most of the spectators were Caucasian as well. This could be the cause of many things. First it was August in Paris, and during this time the Parisians go on holiday. But, regardless I shouldn’t have been the only African American in the crowd. Another reason could be the generational shift and the commodity of jazz. This commodity recognizes that Paris is known for having the jazz greats visit their town and accordingly, companies or marketing organizations could have aspirations of shifting the audience.

The Main Takeaway: Music Memory

black-paris-divasTakeaway from all of the literature boils down to the idea of liberation and memory. Through all of the readings and theories, it can be deduced that African Americans had an extremely trying time in America especially during the 1900’s and Interwar time frame.

However, by using these puzzling theories that, it is easier to access what the role of memory. For instance, in each situation, there seems to be a negative reaction. Yes, it all goes back to Newton. For instance, with regards to cosmopolitanism, the negative reaction is symbolic culture, which spawns ideas about African American’s relationship with cosmopolitanism.  These theories lend themselves to the mental struggle of persona. But, in order to avoid these troubles in the future, there needs to be a recollection of said events that are described by the theories. In stead, the culture is left with oral history, which can disintegrate and turn with twitches of the tongue and selective memory. Essentially, in a perfect world, I would open an African American museum in Paris. This museum would be an unbiased museum that would tell the tale of the Exodus to Paris. This is necessary, because awareness of the black self and liberation, are key concepts in the prominent movements. Therefore, someone stretch to say that the “I’m Black and I’m Proud” popular phrase repeated by James Brown could be a remix of countless tales of liberation and realization that being African American, Black, colored or whatever you would like to call it, is not a “veil” rather another color in the palette of life.

Another takeaway is that there are two African Americans that are memorialized in Paris. But what about the thousands of African Americans that journeyed to Paris and basked in liberation? To scale back, what about the hundreds of African Americans that came to Paris and still come to Paris as a way to experience musical freedom. The takeaway is that in the absence of their physical memorial, the music has become a boundless vessel for memory.

However, whatever the reason, this could at least be some form of cultural memory. Through interviews and conversations, it seems as though people go by the music over the memory of where it was. Maybe the music made more sense and will be the memory.

The music knows no bounds and in some cases can be played or sung without documentation. Therefore, through the notes of each street performer, through the pull on each string of the bass, and through the smile of each piano player as he or she gets into the groove, that is a nod to the people that came before and lived in harmony and freedom.

Other topics:

The Mamy for Sale: Tourists shops selling the past

Jazz finds Religion: A religious take on Jazz music and race

Baldwin and the Paris Essays

Reference and Beginning Bibliography:

Ake, David Andrew. Jazz Cultures. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Assmann, Jan, and John Czaplicka. “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity.” New German Critique 65 (1995): 125-33. JSTOR. Duke University Press. Web. Dec. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org.proxy.library.georgetown.edu/stable/488538>.

Banks-Wallace, J.. 03/2002. Talk that Talk: Storytelling and Analysis Rooted in African American Oral Tradition, Qualitative health research, 12(3), 410 – 426-426. (ISSN: 1049-7323).

Bennefield, Robin. “Understanding Black Paris.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19 Sept. 2011. Web. Dec. 2013. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/therootdc/post/understanding-black-paris/2011/08/19/gIQAsbsEfK_blog.html>.

Boittin, Jennifer A. Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-Imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010. Print.

Berliner, Paul. Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Blumenthal, Bob. Jazz: An Introduction to the History and Legends Behind America’s Music. New York: Collins, 2007.

Bruce, Dickson D., Jr. “W. E. B. Du Bois and the Idea of Double Consciousness.”American Literature 64.2 (1992): 299-309. JSTOR. Duke University Press. Web. Nov. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org.proxy.library.georgetown.edu/stable/2927837>.

Chivalette, William I. “Corporal Eugene Jacques Bullard First Black American Fighter Pilot.” Corporal Eugene Jacques Bullard. Air & Space Power Journal, n.d. Web. Sept. 2013. <http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/apjinternational/apj-s/2005/3tri05/chivaletteeng.html>.

Cox News Service. “Paris Dedicates Square To Jazz-era Legend.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 04 Feb. 2001. Web. 12 Dec. 2013. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2001-02-04/news/0102040390_1_paris-mayor-jean-tiberi-la-coupole-heart>.

Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt. “Strivings of the Negro People.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 1 Aug. 1897. Web. Dec. 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1897/08/strivings-of-the-negro-people/305446/>.

Elkin, Lauren. “Langston Hughes in Paris.” Paris in French and Expat Literature. WordPress.com, 15 Nov. 2010. Web. Dec. 2013. <http://nyuflaneur.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/langston-hughes-in-paris/>.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto, 2008. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 7 Dec. 2013.

Friedel, Tania. Racial Discourse and Cosmopolitanism in Twentieth-century African American Writing. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Giddins, Gary, and Scott Knowles DeVeaux. Jazz. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009.

Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Hobbs, Stuart D. “Exhibiting Antimodernism: History, Memory, and the Aestheticized Past in Mid-twentieth-century America.” The Public Historian23.3 (2001): 39-61. Print.

Kant, Immanuel, and Lewis White. Beck. Perpetual Peace. Edited, With an Introd. by Lewis White Beck. New York: Liberal Arts, 1957. Print.

Moore, Jerry D. Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists. 4th ed. Lanham: Md., 2012. Print.

“Musée Du Quai Branly Explores Tribal Art in a Landmark Exhibition That Charts Its Rapid Rise.” Artdaily.org. Jose Villarreal, n.d. Web. Oct. 2013. <http://artdaily.com/news/63500/Mus-e-du-quai-Branly-explores-tribal-art-in-a-landmark-exhibition-that-charts-its-rapid-rise>.

“Newton’s Third Law.” Newton’s Third Law. The Physics Classroom, 2013. Web. Dec. 2013. <http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/newtlaws/u2l4a.cfm>.

Nielsen, Cynthia R. Foucault, Douglass, Fanon, and Scotus in Dialogue: On Social Construction and Freedom. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print.

Nwankwo, Ifeoma Kiddoe. Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-century Americas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005. Print

Olick, J. K., & Robbins, J. (1998). Social memory studies: From “collective memory” to the historical sociology of mnemonic practices. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 105-140. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/199614201?accountid=11091

Peterson, Charles. Dubois, Fanon, Cabral: The Margins of Elite Anti-Colonial Leadership. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007. Print.

“Review: Charles Ratton – The Invention of the ‘Primitive’ Arts, Musée Du Quai Branly.” Spear’s. Spear’s Magazine, 13 Aug. 2013. Web. Nov. 2013. <http://www.spearswms.com/blog/review-charles-ratton-the-invention-of-the-primitive-arts-muse-du-quai-branly>.

Riding, Alan. “American Artists in Interwar Paris, Seeking Novelty.” The New York Times: Arts. The New York Times, 10 Nov. 2003. Web. Dec. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/10/arts/american-artists-in-interwar-paris-seeking-novelty.html>.

Smith, Shawn M. Photography on the Color Line: W.e.b. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004. Print.

Tannen, D. (1982). Spoken and written language: Exploring orality and literacy. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Tannen, Deborah. “Oral and Literate Strategies in Spoken and Written Narratives.”Language 58.1 (1982): 1-21. JSTOR. Linguistic Society of America. Web. <http://www.jstor.org.proxy.library.georgetown.edu/stable/413530>. 

West, Carolyn M. “Black women and intimate partner violence new directions for research.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 19.12 (2004): 1487-1493.

Yancy, George. Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Pub, 2008. Print.

http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Bourdieu-Field_of_Cultural_Prod-1993.pdf

http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Bourdieu-Forms_of_Capital.html

 

To Paris With Love

All Pictures 8.14.13 288

I went to Paris to look at the African American Exodus to Paris from 1900-1950. However, with every day walking around the romantic streets of San Michel, reading books about the African American experience in Paris at the Jardin du Luxembourg, and having conversations with history buffs and street musicians my idea slowly but surely changed.

With every meeting and with every tour more questions emerged. I initially wanted to pluck two people from each discipline (arts, education, athletics, etc) and examine why they came to Paris. Then I narrowed the study to musicians. However, I started to fall in love with the idea of the musician community and remembering the greats through playing their standard music. However, I realized that this was too macro a topic for the course. So, I went back to the drawing board. I sifted through my notes and my reflections and personal journal entries.

I went back to my first time in Montmartre and then my various tours. I discovered that there was something missing. The physical memory manifested in monuments and signs. After discussing this issue with people, I received the answer that monuments are reserved for citizens of Paris. After mulling that idea over in my mind, I got it. I understood the sacred space that is Paris, however this study made me want to think about other ways of memory that equally respect both parties and cultures. I think that the answer is that I should start my own museum in Paris dedicated to the Exodus or diaspora. However, that might not happen, so a feasible idea would be some sort of music preservation, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how this could work or what effects this would have, but I’m excited to hopefully talk about this soon (after the holidays) either via e-mail or google hangout.

The Louvre

The Paris excursion has too many takeaways to name. From actually staying there by myself and meeting up with strangers to have discussions or mild debates about issues. To finishing up the applicable research and travelling to other countries while abroad. One takeaway from going abroad was actually experiencing the liberation that I read so much about. I guess the biggest takeaway would be creating a topic for future research. I now know that I can’t take a macro idea and make it work in a few months. Therefore, this final project has really laid the foundation for a bigger research approach dealing with culture and musical memory.

Abbey Road

Abbey Road

 

Jamón in Madrid

Jamón in Madrid

Reading during brunchReading during brunchAll Pictures 8.14.13 017

 

Tour Disconnect

While in Paris, I went on many bus tours. I purchased a few two day passes so I could cover multiple areas and neighborhoods. By the end of my trip, I was partially able to recite the scripts or at least the music tracks that they included. Regardless, I was very shocked when I went on tour to discover what was told and what wasn’t told. For instance, while going by the Madeline, the bus tour did not mention Josephine Baker’s funeral. I thought this was an important part because it was “Josephine Baker’s funeral on April 15, 1975, formed a spectacular finale to her unique career. The French government gave her a state funeral at the city’s impressive Madeline church, the first American woman it had ever honored in this way.” (Stovall 286). Another interesting fact was that the bus tours didn’t really add anything without the French stamp. This was to be expected, but I thought that the tours would somehow mention the importance of the African Americans in Paris.

The only areas that I found information about African Americans in Paris, were on African American tours. These tours could be a bit pricey, but they were very educational. I took two official tours. The first tour was with about seven other Americans. The second was a personal tour, it was just myself and the tour guide. In between those tours, I had a separate meeting with a tour guide that worked for a company that specializes in Black tours and we discussed African American life in Paris. Also, I bought a few books that had tour routes inside. These tours and books provided wonderful insight, however they I wish there was some nominal connection between the commercial and the culturally specific.

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Image from Ricki Stevenson’s Black Paris Tours

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The Tour Group from Ricki Stevenson’s Black Paris Tours.

 

Change of the Seasons

When in Paris, I went to many jazz clubs. I visited jazz clubs because many African Americans went to jazz clubs in the 1920s to perform. It was the scene. African Americans gave Paris the gift of jazz. So, I believed that when I went to Paris, I would see many African Americans and many people of color.

But that was not the case. In many of the situations, when I visited the Parisian jazz clubs, many of the people were not black. There were Parisians, Germans, people from Geneva (oh my), but not people of color. I was very surprised that this was a consistency in Paris. I really didn’t see that many people of color in Paris at all except for my mediated African American Tours.

This is an interesting thought because of the notion of jazz and Paris. To add to the idea of jazz in Paris, a racial and religious divide was created. According to Asukile, jazz was condemned:
“This type of condemnation of jazz as essentially immoral and destructive by some white Americans was the backdrop to a national debate that made [Joel Augustus] Rogers’ ‘Jazz at Home’  even more important. During the 1920s many white Americans would have vehemently disagreed with Rogers identifying the future of jazz with democracy. Rogers opened ‘Jazz at Home’ with the following statement: ‘Jazz is a marvel of parado: too fundamentally human, at least as modern humanity goes, to be typically racial, too international to be characteristically national, too much abroad in the world to have a special home.’(Asukile 24).

I think this approach is interesting because, while abroad, I thought that I would experience jazz as an international aspect, but instead it was extremely branded, even in the “authentic” jazz clubs that I went to. As a sign of the times I thought that this definition would change with it. And I guess it did in some ways, specifically the racial identity of jazz. Regardless, the music was fabulous and the food was phenomenal.

Takeaway: The takeaway is that jazz is seemingly becoming hard to describe. The books and music charts hint that jazz is racially one way. However, the audience seems to pull it in another way. I just wanted to make note of my observation of the color contrast in the jazz club and it’s shift from being one race to another. I’m not sure if this is gentrification of music or not? And if so what does this mean? Is it good that new people are appreciating this music? Or is it bad that people are polarizing the music?

What Should We Call it?

So I am currently trying to define the time period. Initially, I wanted to look at the Exodus from 1900s to 1950. However, I recently realized that that information would suite future research. However, I noticed that the majority of my information address DuBois and the Interwar time frame. The catch is that the DuBois Paris Exhibit is of another time frame than the Interwar period.

The main takeaway is that the 1900s and the 1920s are interesting time periods for African Americans coming to Paris. On one end, African Americans are breaking barriers and on the other African Americans are discovering their liberation. I think I will address the official time period(s) that I am studying as the 1900s and the 1920s simply because of the growth in liberation. In the future, I can work on connecting these time frames.

Musée du Quai Branly Blog Post

One opinion of primitivism comes from Charles Ratton who collected primitive works of art. However, instead of using the images as a tool for inferiority, he aimed to fetishize the primitive way of life.

“He realised that these arts that we inaccurately term ‘primitive’ obey the same laws and are deserving of the same esteem as the classical arts and those of Asia, the latter being known and appreciated themselves for scarcely forty years. He decided to devote himself entirely to them.” —Charles Ratton about himself. (Art Daily). He attempted to grant further agency to primitive work.

However, when I visited the Musée du Quai Branly and the Ratton exhibit, I was very shocked. I did not read the collection as a way of granting agency to a section of art. Instead, I felt as though it was overtly the racial standard of beauty. For instance, the main advertisement for the exhibit had a nude woman with white skin fondly holding a primitive piece of art.

This image is interesting in many ways. Instead of writing all of the ways, I will just stick to the idea of black bodies not owning their own bodies. For instance, this concept reminded me of Smith’s mention of “photographs that eugenicists and biological racialists used to codify bodies in racial terms” (Smith 61). These images are a tad disturbing because in some cases they are mimicked by primitive art. For further illustration, there is a haunting image in Smith’s book where a woman is partially naked and appears to be sad (Smith 48). The woman’s body appears to be stretched. Yet, it appears that her image, her physical body correlates with primitive art. The same primitive are that is being adored by the partially nude Caucasian woman in the poster for the Ratton exhibit. I am still trying to make connections about the similarities of primitive art, and biological racialists images, and ownership displayed in this poster.

Round Midnight Blog Post

When I watched this movie, I was intrigued by the fandom of the character Francis Borler. His instant crave for the music of Dale Turner.  In the movie Borler would stay outside of jazz clubs to listen Turner. He would sometimes compromise father daughter time in order to be with the musician. Even though the movie was so much more than the fandom and fame of the jazz artists, that aspect of the film really haunted my memory.

When I was in Paris, I remember that a tour guide told me that the French are attracted to the Black music because they believe that it can’t be taught. In addition the guide said people think that the African American music comes from the soul. I am not sure what my thoughts are surrounding this issue, but I do believe that there is an interesting French an African American relationship.

One possible reasoning could be that during the 1900’s there were so may instances that effected the African American cultural memory. There were myths created and perpetuated and in some cases the African Americans became a forbidden fruit. Now this attraction is not rare when studying cultures, I am just about the ramifications of making the African American musician a form of fetish. Hopefully, I can think about this some more.

Pierre Bourdieu Take 1

So this is my initial take on Pierre Bourdieu’s theories with regards to this research paper. So, I look forward to comments about my approach.

Habitus:

Habitus  is intended to transcend a series of deep-seated dichotomies structuring ways of thinking about the social world.” (Grenfell and Maton 49).

Habitus is shaped by interactions within concrete social networks” (Grenfell and Crossley 93).

habitus with reference to inner-consciousness and practice” (Grenfell and Moore 110).

With regards to my research, habitus can be compared to double consciousness, in that habitus explains double consciousness. So if double consciousness is approached with reference to the African American race, then habitus would be the explanation for the accessibility of double consciousness. Meaning, we already have the identity and the struggles of said identity, but habitus takes it to the next level. It takes this idea to another sphere in that it gives further agency to the idea and creates other roadblocks.

Capital:

“Mapping social space allows us to allocate individuals to classes. For example, we may be inclined to group together all individuals who have a high volume of capitaland whose wealth is primarily cultural. Bourdieu is at pains to argue, however, that such classes are only ‘theoretical’; what he calls ‘classes on paper’. They are not real groups. Indiciuals who are proximate  social space do not necessarily identify with one another or act collectively, wich is what ‘real classes’ involve for Bourdieu” (Grenfell and Crossley 92).

“Bourdieu (1985d, 1992f), apparently drawing from Satre’ (2004) later work, takes a different view. Individuals who share a position in social space are just individuals. To exist as a class they must ‘form’ as such, acting and identifying collectively/” (Grenfell and Crossley 93).

Capital is the residue of the spheres. Meaning after all is said and done with deciphering the levels of consciousness and the network, then capital can be assessed. Capital cannot be assessed until habitus and double consciousness are parsed out. Therefore, capital is I guess the ramification of the double consciousness and further determines one place in the universe and what actions are performed. Therefore, the collective is only as strong as it’s consciousness.

Symbolic:

“symbolic capitals as types of assets that bring social and cultural advantage or disadvantage” (Grenfell and Moore 104).

“Each field of symbolic capital reproduced the system of unequal relations in the economic field (relations of class and power) and , in doing so, reproduces the fundamental structure of social inequality” (Grenfell and Moore 104).

Through the node of symbolic capital, people are separated into the people that “have” and the people that “have not”. The distinction is important to my paper because this is one of the biggest reasons for the Exodus to Paris for the African American culture. In the US, symbolic capital reduced their race to specific categories with stereotypes. Some of these stereotypes and ways of capital were prescribed (Mamie, Jezebel, Sambo). These prescribed stereotypes were automatically associated with race and therefore created distinction to what could be consumed. In the world of consumption, in the US people could only consume products that aligned with their constructed meta-symbolic status.

(Please note that this is my first assessment that I’ve written about these concepts with regards to my paper, therefore my assessment might be fuzzy.)

Reference:

Grenfell, Michael. Pierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts. Stocksfield [England: Acumen, 2008. Print.

Cosmopolitanism

The idea of the quintessential cosmopolitan, is very interesting and a double standard depending on the time period.

On one side of the coin, it seems like a positive idea about the self. Arguing that we are all connected by the way of the universe. “In Perpetual Peace (1795) Kant, along with many other Enlightenment thinkers, adopts a cosmopolitan perspective when he argues that individuals have rights as ‘citizens of the earth’ rather than as citizens of particular states” (Friedel 5). This notion seems very encouraging. It seems encouraging because it supports a notion of creating a whole instead of separate parts.

Friedel also mentions that “A cosmopolitan position implies an overarching concern for humanity that requires an acknowledgement of the important particularities of local identity claims…cosmopolitanism respects difference while asserting a common ground of equality that mediates between the particular and the universal” (Friedel 6). This idea is interesting because of the sense of being universal. But, who is included in the universe? Is everyone included in the connection? Is there a hierarchy?

Nwankwo raises a few points and concerns. According to Nwankwo, “The person of African descent’s citizenship in his or her specific nation of residents has been denied negated, and generally troubled. Positing national identity and cosmopolitan subjectivity as polar opposites presumes that national identity is available to all individuals. Our understanding of cosmopolitanism must consider that, for some…national identity may be desired but inaccessible, and consequently  that cosmopolitanism, while not necessarily the object of desire may be conceptualized as a means to the end of gaining access to national identity…and/or as the basis of a substitute national identity in itself…” (Nwankwo 12). Therefore, cosmopolitanism creates a division. 

Cosmopolitanism is important to this research because of the notion that African Americans went to Paris to become cosmopolitans. In Europe in the early 1900’s cosmopolitanism m is perceived to be open to all. However, in the United States, during that same period, cosmopolitanism was not granted to everyone.

References:

Friedel, Tania. Racial Discourse and Cosmopolitanism in Twentieth-century African American Writing. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Nwankwo, Ifeoma K. Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Americas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. Print.

Reaction to “Library of Congress Reports 75% of Silent Films Lost Forever” article

This article mentions the tug of war between cultural memory in the movie realm. This is interesting because it begs the question of what is remembered and why?

For this independent study, I’ve constantly questioned the relevance of cultural memory. However, this article proves that cultural memory has value because of the ability to choose what is remembered and what is lost in the sands of time.

Getting to the topic of cultural memory and the African American Exodus to Paris, this sifting through the sands of time is extremely prevalent. What images and stories are retold and who decides? Also, what bearing does the choice have on the culture? Do the negative aspects of a culture have the right to be forgotten?

While I was in Paris, I took many “Black Tours” of Paris. Each tour highlighted the oral tradition of the African American culture. During one tour, I asked the tour guide, about the tour script and how the guide decides what is important and what is not? I’m sure within every story ever told, the storytellers miss aspects of the story.

This question ended up in a long conversation about privacy and the African American culture and shaping stories. The takeaway from the conversation was that there is a constant struggle between cultural memory and double consciousness.

The idea of double consciousness was initiated by W.E.B. Du Bois. In this theory African Americans go through life with two personalities. One personality is the true self and the other is a mask to gain acceptance in society. Therefore, double consciousness provides a scrambled idea of identity. This identity struggle bleeds into cultural memory because of the construction of the memory.

This makes me question if double consciousness plays a role in all of history in general regardless of race? If so, how are historians or researchers supposed to approach their research? 

Reference:

http://mashable.com/2013/12/04/silent-films-lost-forever/
http://www.library.umass.edu/spcoll/duboisopedia/doku.php?id=about:double_consciousness

Case Study 1: Eugene Bullard

 

 

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

 

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.
  • “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 BakerLouis ArmstrongLangston 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 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.”

bullard2Takeaway:

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.

Resources:

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.

Further research:
Note that he was “publicly acknowledged” by President-General Charles de Gaulle of France.

Leaving for Paris

Elizabeth-Burton Jones

In order to assess the lifestyle of African Americans in Paris, I am going to go to Paris.

Paris Day 1 873

I will stay in Paris from August 7th until August 20th. During this time, I will go to museums, interview performers, go to jazz concerts, and tour the areas that African Americans called home. I am going to Paris for a number of reasons. One, in order to see if the myth of the liberated self in Paris is true. I have heard countless stories about various African Americans that felt an enormous weight lifted off of them as soon as they reached Paris (this “weight” is not confined to any period of time). Also, because I do not know anyone in the Paris Exodus research field, I figured that this would be the most opportune time to begin my research. I am also going to Paris in order to see how the African Americans are being remembered. I will tour a few of the places where the African Americans went when they reached Paris and I will find out if they truly left their mark. In addition, I will interview diverse Parisians and various musical artists and ask them about their perspectives on African Americans and Paris.

With this journey, I am very excited, yet nervous because I am making these connections on my own. I am contacting many people that I have never met before and we are meeting for the first time in Paris. However, I am sure that this trip will grant me tremendous insight to what it is like to be an African American in the City of Light.

Takeaway:

I am going to Paris to materialize my research.

Further Questions:

How are the African Americans from the Exodus remembered via current branding techniques?

Are the buildings that the African Americans opened establishments in (restaurants, etc) still intact?

Unequal Opulence

Elizabeth-Burton Jones

life

The roaring twenties were supposedly a time to multiply every experience to the max. If you were going to gild the rose do so with extra panache. If you were going to wear makeup why not shave your eyebrows off and draw them. Paint your lips red. Shellac your hair to your scalp. Wear diamonds and more diamonds.

party

Everything was plush and in some ways careless. In typical situations, this image of fun times and no consequences seldom lends itself to any reality. In fact, in this time, not everyone was doing the Charleston without a care. In this time there was still injustice. This injustice is hard to uncover but it was prevalent.

Conspicuous Consumption:                                                                

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN183rJltNM&feature=youtu.be

At the end of the 1800’s Thorstein Veblen wrote a piece that described the ever growing culture of conspicuous consumption. Essentially, this culture included wealthy white men that could distinguish their wealth from others by the ways of food selection, entertainment, and status of his household.

“Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure. As wealth accumulates on his hands, his own unaided effort will not avail to sufficiently put his opulence in evidence by this method. The aid of friends and competitors is therefore brought in by resorting to the giving of valuable presents and expensive feasts and entertainments. Presents and feasts had probably another origin than that of naive ostentation, but they required their utility for this purpose very early, and they have retained that character to the present; so that their utility in this respect has now long been the substantial ground on which these usages rest. Costly entertainments, such as the potlatch or the ball, are peculiarly adapted to serve this end. “ (Veblen 75).

Throwing lavish parties, is just one way that the author describes the conspicuous consumption culture, a culture where status trumps all other worries. Veblen also mentions that there was a desire to be honored. “Unproductive consumption of goods is honourable, primarily as a mark of prowess and a perquisite of human dignity; secondarily it becomes substantially honourable to itself, especially the consumption of the more desirable things” (Veblen 69). This honor continued the vicious cycle of consumption, because the more that people wanted to be dignified the more that they had to consume and keep up with the Joneses. Also, Veblen mentions that “If these articles of consumption are costly, they are felt to be noble and honorific. “ (Veblen 70). Therefore, the consumers, create a distinction between their goods and their class. This distinction is the important.

Veblen also spends a great deal of time explaining who the people are trying to distinct themselves from; answer is the worker (typically the working class). “In what has been said of the evolution of the vicarious leisure class and its differentiation from the general body of the working classes, reference has been made to a further division of labour, — that between the different servant classes.” (Veblen 68).One way to show distinction is through dress and uniforms. Veblen mentions that, “The wearing of uniforms or liveries implies a considerable degree of dependence, and may even be said to be a mark of servitude, real or ostensible. The wearers of uniforms and liveries may be roughly divided into two classes-the free and the servile, or the noble and the ignoble. “ (78). Therefore, this strengthens the argument of the class distinctions. In the rest of Chapter 4, Veblen gives the role of women at the time and their position within the consumption spectrum. However, for the purpose of this paper, the vicious culture of consumption is necessary to review. Even though this article was written in 1899, it still skims the surface of my study of the African American Exodus to Paris.

Opulent Observers:

In the early 1900’s to the 1930’s there was definitely a culture of spending money without a care. It seems as though whenever people give a summation of the times known as the Roaring 20’s people often name it a careless time, a sinful time, a time for follies, or all of the above. But, in this time description, a vast majority of people are being marginalized. Not everyone was able to afford a life where the main goal was to achieve honor.  That is why I included the Veblen reading in my studies.  I wanted to know about the people that that were mainly on the other side of the class spectrum included African Americans.

An interesting way to look at a different depiction of the unequal opulence is revealed during the 2013 remixed version of “The Great Gatsby” , even though inequality is not the main focus, it is at least heavily highlighted through distinct nonverbal actions of the actors. In the 2013 version of the film occurs when Tom Buchanan talks to his guests about the uprising of the minorities. During this scene Tom Buchanan was surrounded by African American butlers and he unabashedly directs his comments about suppressing the African American race to the waiters. Tom Buchanan does this by straightening one butler’s tie. In response the butler does not say anything; rather the butler gives an expression of suppression.

That scene was particular memorable because of the way that it was acted out. In the other versions of “The Great Gatsby” such as the film starring Robert Redford, I do not recall noticing an overt distinction of the races. Also, I did not notice a huge distinction between the classes particularly between Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway. But in the 2013 film I continuously noticed the light and the dark. The differences covered a vast terrain (class, race, etc.) but each area found its destination in the  unattainable dream.

Takeaway:

The point of the matter is that the opulence was not as evenly spread out between the masses and the races in America.

Further Questions:

Could African Americans experience this opulence in Paris?

When looking at the distribution of wealth during the roaring 20’s how did the marginalized live in an overly extravagant world?

How is this different according to race? Native versus immigrant?

Is conspicuous consumption a product of propaganda? Does this consumption work today?

Is conspicuous consumption more than a means to achieve status?

Could it be a side effect of fulfilling an emotional or psychological void?

References:

Thorstein Veblen. “Conspicuous Consumption.” Chapter 4 in The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions.  New York: The Macmillan Company (1899): 68-101.

Veblen, Thorstein. Conspicuous Consumption. New York: Macmillan, 1899. Print. http://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Veblen/Veblen_1899/Veblen_1899_04.html