Americans in Paris from 1784 to the Present

American writers and artists – from Thomas Jefferson to Henry James, Edith Wharton to Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald to Shay Youngblood – have viewed the French as a people who value art and creativity, the aesthete and the intellectual more highly than Americans. Those Americans marginalized or discriminated against in the U.S., such as Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, and James Baldwin, judged Paris to be a place where they could live and love and create as they pleased. In fall 2010, Professor Suzanne Jones’s first-year seminar “Americans in Paris” discussed what these and other Americans hoped to find in Paris that they did not find in the United States. The seminar located where the Paris of dreams departed from reality and compared Americans’ quests across generations and demographic groups. Throughout the semester the seminar discussed American stereotypes of Paris and French people (both positive and negative), why these stereotypes exist, and what functions they have served for Americans. Examining a variety of topics, from the effect of place on identity to cosmopolitanism and globalization, seminar participants considered how Americans perceive the French and why, and the effects of misperceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. Click on “About” on the menu above to view the syllabus.

With the help of the University of Richmond’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology and the Digital Scholarship Lab, the seminar created an interactive map, pinpointing where many famous Americans lived in Paris, and a timeline indicating when they were in residence. Seminar participants researched the reasons these Americans went to Paris and the social, political, and/or aesthetic context they lived in while there. The map allows viewers to visualize the temporal and spatial relationships among historical figures and to compare why these Americans went to Paris and what they found there. When you go to the map, click on either the map markers or the names on the timeline to display a name, image, street location, and the titles of short essays written by seminar participants: The names on the timeline are color-coded according to profession, as shown in the accompanying legend. Within individual bubbles, click on the linked street address for a current view of Paris, and the essay titles for the full essay texts, which are linked to this WordPress site.

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Coca Cola in Paris: A Changing France


by Laurina Santi

Throughout the 20th century, many new inventions and products  originally discovered or created in the United States have spread throughout the world.  One prominent product was Coca Cola, a soft drink consumed by many in the United States and once speculated as able to treat many illnesses. Coca Cola’s popularity in the United States enabled its makers to seek out markets in Europe, leading to what the French referred to as the “coca colanizationof France (Marling).

The history of Coca Cola dates back to the late 19th century; however, Coca Cola did not arrive in France until 1953. Coca Cola, before it came to France, was a very popular drink in the United States since it was the first soft drink to be widely marketed. Originally designed from a French coca wine, Coca Cola was able to catch on so quickly because it was the first major flavorful non alcoholic beverage widely consumed, and it became even more popular during Prohibition. When Coca Cola became mass produced, it influenced the popularization of American capitalist culture and eventually became one of the most well known American brands in the world.  As Richard Kuisel points out, Coca Cola was associated with “mass advertising, a high consumption society, and free enterprise”(98), and eventually played a major role in the way the world saw America.

Coca Cola came to France during the Cold War, and that influenced its popularity.  The Cold War served as a time for America to prove itself and the benefits of a capitalist society over a communist one. Coca Cola brought money to the places where it came, thus demonstrating how this iconic American product could benefit the places where it was marketed. Coca Cola, however ,was not very popular in France, and even still to this day is not as popular in France as in other Western European nations. Because Coca Cola represented America to its core, a capitalist society, Coca Cola’s move into France was met with some resistance: “Barricades threatened to appear in Paris when it became known that Coca-Cola requested a license to bottle their drink there” (Lienhard 1). The French public did not want France to be overtaken by American enterprises and so fought to prevent the mass production of Coca Cola in France. Today, however, there is a Coca Cola factory in France, which has increased the production and consumption of Coca Cola, although the recipe varies slightly from the original American version.

Today the consumption of Coca Cola has again become  a subject for discussion but this time based on a similar issue raised in the United States: does consumption of sugary soft drinks contribute to obesity? Many in France are now looking towards a ban of Coca Cola in France because of claims that it is unhealthy and will contribute to an increase in obesity. Although France already has a much lower rate of obesity than the United States, due to a better diet and fewer fast food chains, the French government wants to keep rate lower. To combat the concern, Coca Cola has created a new, healthier version of the original drink to market in France and so maintain its foothold there. Cola still represents America to the French people.

Works Cited

Kuisel, Richard F. “Coca-Cola and the Cold War: The French Face Americanization, 1948-1953.” French Historical Studies 17.1 (1991): 96-116. Print.

Lienhard, John H. “No. 1985: Coca-Colanizing France.” Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Marling, William. “Coca-colonization.” American Quarterly 48.4 (1996): 731-39. Print.

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France in the 1970s: A Time of Decline, Doubt, and Anti-Americanism

by Adrian Sheppe

In the 1970s, France’s traditional image of its own significance in world affairs was severely dented by a series of events taking place both inside France and around the world. The French started to feel that their primacy among nations as a role model for all nations in the art of living was being challenged by a new way of life coming from America. The French were not pleased with this American interloper, whom they thought vulgar and uncouth. The result was France’s decade-long twin phenomenon of growing self-doubt as a nation and of an ever intensifying anti-Americanism.

France had always been in her own eyes an exemplary country. Since at least Louis XIII, France had always been a model for how to live. During the early 20th century, France believed they led the world in matters cultural, political, intellectual, gastronomic – in short, in their demonstrably superior French way of life. “Leben wie Gott in Frankreich” is roughly translated as “live like God in France” (McCrosky). Presumably God could choose to live anywhere – where else would God live if not in France? Convinced of their superiority to other nations in most matters of earthly accomplishment , the French felt compelled to export their way of life to less enlightened lands around the world – this is what they called “le rayonnement français” – and it was for nearly 400 years the mission of France. France leading the world was perhaps the most unshakeable myth underlying what it meant to be truly French (Cosgrove). They felt that they had the best of everything – an all encompassing “savoir-vivre,” envied by the entire world. Proof of this was everywhere: in their spectacular cuisine and unmatched wines, in their fashion, in their art and architecture, in their racial, political and religious tolerance, and even in the sun-kissed geography of a country blessed with unsurpassed natural beauty. But this sense of French exceptionalism was to be dashed to pieces, bitterly, during the 1970s, under the influence of forces in large part beyond the control of France’s cultural and intellectual establishment; and France became quite worried about her position in world affairs. In the 1970s, the American invasion of France had begun in earnest.

Signs of growing French antipathy towards America were becoming more and more prevalent in the 1970’s. Anti-Americanism had gotten a boost with the publication in 1967 of Jean Jacques Servan-Schreiber’s phenomenally influential and best-selling book Le Défi Américain. Servan-Schreiber warned the French public that France and French values were being submerged by American influence, technology, culture, and wealth (“The American Challenge– Brittanica Online”). The book suggested in no uncertain terms that French political and economic weakness, France’s inability to address a new form of modernity distinctly different from the old, and her lack of self-confidence would all lead to an ever increasing encroachment of American values into the French way of life, both domestically and around the world, in places like francophone Africa. France would submit and become a “client-state” for the United States (Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber – Wikepedia”). It wasn’t just a French problem of course. Servan-Schreiber wrote that Europe as a whole was abdicating its future, foregoing a chance to catch up with the technology and skills that the Americans had already mastered and were using to their sole advantage (Kuisel).

Though anti-Americanism was not unknown outside France, France’s historic myths about herself were destined to clash with the tidal wave of American influence rolling across Europe. It was during the 1970s that many large American corporations set up huge operations in France (with IBM being perhaps the most prominent example). US corporations were quickly seen with suspicion, as dominating local competition (like the French computer manufacturer Compagnie des Machines Bull, “Bull – Wikipedia”). This created an increasing feeling of disdain towards the opening of American beachhead establishments in France, especially in the field of cuisine where fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s were growing in size and popularity. The cultural elite of France were not inclined to try these stop-and-go restaurants that would ruin the nation’s appreciation for fine cuisine. But anti-Americanism was not just the preserve of the corporate sector. In politics, the French were characterized by a virulent criticism for most aspects of American foreign policy during the 1970s (Gienot-Hecht). In the growing culture wars, France passed new “local content” laws which were supposed to protect French television and cinema from being overwhelmed by cheap, crass American imports(Karen).

At the same time that France was being subjected to an unprecedented invasion of technology and consumerism, she was losing ground in her own right in many ways. The 1970s were indeed a very rough period politically and economically for the country. As far forward as 1970, France saw herself as a world power of first rank; she represented, or so it was thought, an important middle ground between the extremes of US capitalism and Soviet communism(1960s France). In many ways, as the 1970s dawned, France was still living off of its victory from the two World Wars. America had always been respected for her power but not for her contributions to world culture and standing. Indeed, Georges Clemenceau, who had led France through the first world war, once said that “America was the only country that had gone from barbarism to decadence without passing though civilization”(“Georges Clemenceau Quotes”). France, on the other hand, had always been the guiding light of world civilization, a model for all. Throughout the 1970’s, however, France was feeling less and less confident about its position in the world. During the 1970’s, France’s “way of life” was weakened quite a bit. President DeGaulle and President Pompidou, epochal military and political leaders of the old guard who had helped rebuild the country after the second world war, passed away in 1970 and 1974 respectively. As well as losing leaders, France’s economy took a large hit as many major industries had crippling strikes. Companies affected included the Renault Car Company and French steel and mining companies. The most significant and worst impact on the French economy, though, came from the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo ; a quadrupling of energy prices in France caused a major contraction of the economy and led to the first waves of mass layoffs (“Europedia – La Crise de 1973”). (The embargo did have the benefit of turning France into a world leader in nuclear energy production). This contributed to a decade long malaise about France’s inability to compete in the new world order then taking form. Even French intellectual life was in no way what people had learned to expect from it. The lone remaining world class philosopher France had was Jean Paul Sartre. Though he passed in 1980, he was long past his prime, having published virtually nothing of consequence since the late 1950’s. (Sartre) French movies and music could not handle the competition from American and English imports. French cuisine was being invaded by the introduction of fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s.

All of these events and phenomena caused France to reevaluate itself and determine why it was in such a disrupted mode. The French wondered: was France in terminal decline? And if so, whose fault was it? To them it seemed clear that the Americans were responsible for pushing France aside as a world power with their emphasis on money, speed, technology, and efficiency (Kuisel and “Jean_Jacques Servan-Schreiber – Wikipedia”).

In the end, the 1970’s were a hinge decade for France. The country had to transition from pre-eminence to middling status and this in so many areas of modern life. The old, 19th century French view of France leading the world had to give way to a more modern and modest view of a middle-rank country competing with others for station and wealth at the dawn of the the 21st century. This France had to accept a smaller, though undeniably vital, role as a player in a multi-polar, inter-connected world where no nation can pretend to be a model for others.

Works Cited

“1960s in France.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.

The American Challenge (work by Servan-Schreiber). Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.

“Bull.” Wikipédia, L’encyclopédie Libre. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.

Cosgrove, Michael. “Mon Figaro – Où Est Passé Le Rayonnement Culturel Français ?” Le Figaro – Actualités. 10 Aug. 2010. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.

“Europedia – La Crise De 1973.” Web. 5 Dec. 2010.

“Georges Clemenceau Quotes.” Quotes and Quotations at BrainyQuote. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.

Gienot-Hecht, Jessica C.E. “A European Considers the Influence of American Culture.” America – Engaging the World – 1 Feb. 2006. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.

“Jean-Paul Sartre.” Wikipédia, L’encyclopédie Libre. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.

“Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber.” Wikipédia, L’encyclopédie Libre. Web. 05 Dec. 2010.

Kuisel, Richard F. Seducing the French: the Dilemma of Americanization. Google Books. Web. 5 Dec. 2010.

McCroskey, Dan. “Leben/wohnen Wie Gott in Frankreich.” Translators & Translator Resources – Web. 5 Dec. 2010.

Rinamen, Karen. “FRENCH FILM QUOTAS.” French Film Quotas and Cultural Protectionism. Web. 13 Dec. 2010.

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McDonald’s In France

by Lindsey Carlsen

American fast food is a booming industry, providing convenience to millions of customers each day. McDonald’s has been a leader in this industry for decades, dominating fast food culture on the world stage, and pulling people in with their golden arches. This monopoly of the fast food market began in California in 1948 when Dick and Mac McDonald opened the first McDonald’s restaurant (James). The original restaurant had a limited menu of just hamburgers and unlimited soda, but focused on providing customers with affordable food fast. The McDonald brothers were able to achieve success because they set up their kitchen like an assembly line to ensure efficiency, and in doing so they established the principles that modern fast food restaurants rely on.

Recognizing the early success of the McDonald’s brand, entrepreneur Ray Kroc became determined to help the McDonalds brothers franchise their business.  Under the guidance of Kroc, the McDonald’s Company experienced swift growth, and by the end of the 1960s, the company had opened over 1,000 restaurants in the United States (James). This growth was accompanied by great success, due in large part to the heavy advertising campaigns employed by the company, most notably, the slogan “Look for the Golden Arches” (McDonald’s History). During this period of expansion, the restaurant also began adding new items to their menu, such as the Filet O’ Fish, in an effort to meet the demands of their existing customers, and attract new patrons.

The growth of McDonald’s in the United States was mirrored by growth in the international sector of the company. In 1972, McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in France (Audi). The restaurant, which was located in Creteil, a suburb of Paris did not experience success, as the French fought the Americanization of their country, and thus the franchise closed quickly. Therefore, McDonald’s recognizes its official entrance into France as 1979, with a restaurant in Strasbourg (McDonald’s History).

Given the volatile relationship that has defined relations between the United States and France in the twentieth century it is not surprising that there were mixed feelings among French citizens when McDonalds’s opened. Some French people saw the entrance of McDonald’s as the ultimate invasion of American culture in France, which was struggling to maintain its cultural identity in the face of globalization. The French began to call McDonald’s ‘McDo”, and feared that it would compromise the legitimacy of French cuisine, which they felt helped to define their cultural identity (Whitney). For these citizens, McDo is the “Trojan horse” of globalization, taking the emphasis away from locally produced food and leisurely meals, and putting it on convenience (Samuel). French people continue to resent McDonald’s because they feel that the company did not adapt their practices when moving into non-American markets (Kuisel). In part, McDonald’s does this in order to ensure that they make a profit, as they are an American food system, and must maintain this identity in order to keep their customers satisfied. However, during their expansion in France the McDonald’s company did recognize that they needed to adopt some business practices to suit French tastes, and they did so by creating new marketing campaigns, and offering more French sauces, such as pepper sauce and mustard, for the Big Mac (Kuisel).

As time has passed, French acceptance of McDonald’s has continued to grow; yet there is still controversy surrounding the company. In 2009, McDonald’s received a great deal of media attention when it announced plans to open a restaurant in the food court at the Louvre in an effort to celebrate its 30th anniversary in France (Samuel). Employees at the world’s most visited fine arts museum are outraged at this announcement, citing their disappointment because McDonald’s is “hardly the height of gastronomy” (Samuel). Employees also fear that McDonald’s will take attention away from the artwork that the Louvre is known for, stating that “the first thing visitors will likely see when they arrive are big golden arches.” (Samuel). In order to combat this opposition, museum officials have stated that this McDonald’s is in line with the image and aesthetic of the Louvre, and it also represents the American portion of the food court (Samuel).

Although the French have continually fought the Americanization of their culture, they cannot deny the success of American business models, especially in the case of fast food. While McDonald’s may have been a catalyst in the French citizens perceived downfall of their native cuisine, it allowed French fast food chains to become more successful. Many French chains adopted the McDonald’s models of product standardization and computerized operations, allowing them to provide a more traditional French customer with convenient sources of French food (Kuisel).

When examining the battle of globalization that exists between the United States and France, it becomes clear that the French are unable to stop the American cultural invasion. Despite opposition to American fast food, McDonald’s has seen great success in France. Today there are more than 980 McDonald’s restaurants in France (McDonald’s History). Also, along with Canada, Japan, Germany, Australia, and England, France helps to make up McDonald’s “Big Six”, generating 80% of the company’s international sales (McDonald’s History). In particular, 2008 was a year of rapid growth in France, as the company opened 30 new franchises in order to serve 450 million new customers, effectively creating the largest market for McDonald’s outside the United States (McDonald’s History). It is unlikely that French citizens will ever be truly satisfied with McDonald’s and the Americanization that it represents, yet French customers continue to be frequent patrons, meaning that the company will continue to have success.

Works Cited

James, Randy. “A Brief History of McDonald’s Abroad.” TIME. Time Inc., 28 Oct. 2009. Web. 04 Dec. 2010.

Kuisel, Richard. “Debating Americanization: The Case of France.” Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2003. 95-111. Print.

“McDonald’s History.” McDonald’s Canada. McDonald’s Corporation, 2009. Web. 4 Dec. 2010.

Samuel, Henry. “McDonald’s Restaurant to Open at the Louvre.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 4 Oct. 2009. Web. 04 Dec. 2010.

Whitney, Craig R. “Protesters Just Say No To ‘McDo’; Jospin Glad.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 15 Sept. 1999. Web. 04 Dec. 2010.

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Coca-Colonisation: Anti-American Sentiment in France

by Brennan Long

The term Cold War generally describes a global rivalry between the Eastern and Western sides of the world, from the end of the Second World War to 1989. It is also a metaphor for the political, cultural, and artistic tensions between France and the United States throughout the same time period. Many communists resided in France, while America, led by Senator Joe McCarthy, attempted to rid the world of Communism.

French communists fought every aspect of America and its capitalistic society slowly invading France’s 400-year-old culture. France was threatened by American modernization and its new products and inventions. French communists banded together and spoke out against Americanization through journalism and propaganda. An American Advertisement for FrigidaireNew York was slowly replacing Paris as the center of visual arts, and American literature, popular music, and products such as Frigidaires and Coca-Cola invaded French soil. While the French were not anti-America, Paris stood as “contested soil” (Kuisel 37). Many educated Frenchmen looking past simple politics, had a pro-America approach admiring the New World’s vitality and prosperity. During the same time, the Communist Party, which had 25% of the electoral vote in France, led an attack on America. Communist poet, Louis Aragon described America as “a civilization of bathtubs and Frigidaires.” (Kuisel 38). The French Communists threw words such as coca-colonisation into the French vernacular leading citizens to believe that America was attempting to colonize France. The Communists used the rationale that the United States was removing Communists from the world in order to make room in France for “Yankee trusts” in Paris (Kuisel 38). In 1949, the Communist Party began a peace movement in order to gain support against the United States. Slogans such as “Yankee Go Home” defaced walls and appeared on magazine covers around the country.

French Communists not only disapproved of American action on European soil, but also spoke out against life in the U.S. The Communists felt that the American School systems did not teach European culture properly and avoided science due to fears of atheism. A French daily Magazine published by the Communist party titled L’Humanite ridiculed America in these article titles, “One Could Starve with a Telephone,” and “Not everyone has a bathroom.” The magazine also stated that “the Frigidaire, an American invention, was a useless gadget most of the year except for making ice cubes for whiskey” (Kuisel 40). So many intellectuals associated themselves with the Communism that the party began referring to itself as the “parti de l’intelligence” (Kuisel 40). Many of these educated elite came from the Left Bank in Paris, including artist Pablo Picasso, journalist Louis Aragon, and poet Paul Eluard.

The main goal of the French Communists was to prevent France and its beloved city, Paris, from being integrated into the Western unification. The French were threatened by the increasingly popular American culture in Europe and feared the disintegration of its own heritage. The Communists, holding quite a bit of power in France, also disliked the anti-communism sentiments across the Atlantic. The Communists worked to fight American culture spreading through Europe by pervading journalism, spreading propaganda and gaining the support of prominent French artists and academics.

Works Cited

Endy, Christopher. Cold War: Holidays. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Print.

Kuisel, Richard. Seducing the French. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993

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James Baldwin’s Discovery of Self

by Adrian Sheppe

Today few would argue that James Baldwin is an inspirational African American writer. But this was not always the case. Baldwin, like many an author before him, struggled to find his voice and sense of self. His quest for identity was complicated by the racist, homophobic era in which he came of age. It was only after he was able to come to terms with his racial and sexual identity that Baldwin was able to unleash his potential as an author. This process of self-discovery took him to Paris, where, freed from social constructs, he was able to find himself not as a black, homosexual author, but simply as an author. And while Baldwin was American, and squarely identified as such, we owe much to Paris for it is there that Baldwin became the writer we recognize as such.

As Baldwin said, “I knew I was black, of course, but I also knew I was smart. I didn’t know how I would use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to use” (Thorsen). From his earliest days Baldwin was exposed to the power of words. He spent a fair amount of time in the library and read anything he could get a hold of. His step-father was a preacher and Baldwin later became one for three years. When his step-father passed away, Baldwin knew he had to set aside his dreams and become a responsible role model for his younger siblings. After spending a few years working with the railroad in New Jersey, Baldwin moved to Greenwich Village and became a freelance writer. During his time in the Village, he met two very influential people. First, he met Beauford Delaney, a modernist painter, who acted as Baldwin’s spiritual father. Baldwin later acknowledged that Delaney showed him “how to see, and how to trust what I saw” (Elgrably). The second and more important figure whom Baldwin met in the Village was Richard Wright. Wright managed to get Baldwin a grant to write in Paris even though Baldwin had not published a novel yet.

All throughout his teenage years, Baldwin was aware of his homosexuality. But this was a time marked by racism and homophobia, and it weighed heavily on Baldwin. In 1948, following the suicide of his friend Eugene Worth (Reynolds, for more details), Baldwin accepted the grant and escaped to Paris. Even though he had only forty dollars and spoke not a word of French, he traveled to Paris to put distance between himself and the America he grew up in. He knew that this America of hatred and prejudice would not allow him to find himself, that in America he would always be stereotyped.

Once in Paris, Baldwin became active with the cultural radicalism of the Left Bank. Freed from notions of who he should be, and how he should write, Baldwin was truly able to come into his own. He began to get his work published in a literary anthology called Zero which had previously published the essays of his friend, Richard Wright. Baldwin believed that “Once you find yourself in another civilization, you’re forced to examine your own” (Thorsen). By 1953, Baldwin published his first novel, Go Tell it on the Mountain, which explored his childhood in Harlem. He left Paris for short periods to travel to Istanbul and New York during the 1950’s and went on to write two more very important books Notes of a Native Son (1955) and Giovanni’s Room (1956). These novels were not well received initially because of their risky subject matter, but they did challenge the way people looked at blacks and homosexuality.

While Baldwin honed his craft in Paris, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum back home. In 1960, Baldwin returned to the U.S. as he felt an obligation to the cause. He gave many popular speeches but quickly realized that the social order had deteriorated during his absence. Baldwin wrote many essays about the violence in the South, such as those in Nobody Knows My Name (1961) and The Fire Next Time (1963), which predicted black social revolt if conditions were not improved. Baldwin’s devotion to the cause was unparalleled, but the assassination of his three closest friends Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X proved to be too much and he gave up.

Disillusioned, Baldwin returned to France in the early 1970s. Although he spent most of his time overseas, Baldwin never gave up his American citizenship, and continued to believe in the possibility of change. And while Americans may not have been so quick to embrace him, the French absolutely adored Baldwin and in 1986, bestowed him with one of the country’s highest honors – the Legion of Honor (“James Baldwin Biography”). He died of stomach cancer on November 30 1987 in Saint-Paul-de-Vance, France, but was buried with his mother in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale near New York City. Shortly before he died, Baldwin sent a message to his nephew in French telling him, “This innocent nation relegated you to a ghetto in which it counted on seeing you perish, but you are home here, my friend. Don’t let yourself be chased out” (Reynolds). In America Baldwin had been but a black man, and as such his identity and sense of self were socially construed; there was no room for individuation. But Baldwin, who did not recognize himself in this externally-imposed identity, refused to accept it. He wasn’t sure who he was, but he knew that there was more to him than being black or homosexual. It was in Paris that he was able to fill out the sketch; it was there that this crude caricature acquired depth and meaning. In Paris he wrote freely, tackling sensitive topics, and producing seminal works. Without Paris, Baldwin might never have come into his own. His coming to Paris allowed him to express himself freely and write the groundbreaking novels we know him for to this day. There can be no doubt that Baldwin’s self exile to France and even the city of Paris played an influential role in shaping the work of one of the most gifted American authors of the civil rights era.

Works Cited

Elgrably, Jordan, comp. “The Art of Fiction LXXVIII, James Baldwin.” Paris Review 91 (1984): 48-82. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.

“James Arthur Baldwin Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 1998. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.

Reynolds, Michel. “James Baldwin (1924-1987), une voix afro-américaine universelle.” Témoignages, 28 June 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.

Thorsen, Karen. “James Baldwin – About the Author.” American Masters. Public Broadcasting Service, New York, 29 Nov. 2006.  Web. 1 Nov. 2010.

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Shay Youngblood’s Paris: A Time of Immigration and Racism

by Naa Kai Koppoe 

Black Girl In Paris, takes place in France in 1986. The main character in the novel, Eden, travels to Paris to find James Baldwinm and she wants to experience love. Throughout the novel, the reader can sense tension between the various groups such as the police and immigrants. Eden is fearful of the bombs that go off without warning, and she is also afraid of having her papers checked by the police. Eden makes friends with a Haitian, Olu-Christophe, and at a point in the novel, he is dragged away by the police, never to be seen again.

Little information about the time frame in which Shay Youngblood was in Paris can be found, but one can assume that she was in Paris during the same time Eden is.  During the late twentieth century, immigration from North Africa increased, resulting in turmoil, tension, and racism in French society. Understanding the conflict between the North Africans and the French is imperative for grasping what is happening in the novel. After World War II, an influx of Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian immigrants came into France. France was looking to “rebuild its war-torn economy” (Laachir); therefore it was logical for people from its ex-colonies to immigrate to France. The North Africans arrived in Paris to fulfill the demand for workers to help rebuild France. They were unskilled laborers, and because they were in need of money, they were willing to work for lower wages than the local Frenchmen, and labor riots increased in industrial towns. In many instances the conflict over the availability of jobs ended in violence. Despite the fact that the need for workers gradually decreased, immigrants both legal and illegal steadily increased.

In addition to economic conflict, problems stemmed from French perception of  North African immigrants. The North Africans were viewed as the reason for the end of economic success in France, and as a result immigration became a more frequented topic (Laachir). In 1986, the Prime Minister of France, Jacques Chirac, adopted a resolution to make tougher laws for immigration. It allowed for local administration to remove immigrants, reserved the right of automatic citizenship, and gave more power to police to refuse entry into the country (Seljuq). These measures contributed to the view that the North African immigrants did not belong in the country, and as a result, dramatic increase in racism. While these measures helped reduce the number of illegal immigrants, the French attitude changed toward both immigrants and people who migrated generations before. Many people in France viewed Muslims as outcasts, and those labels solidified their impression of North Africans. North Africans were referred to as “second-generation immigrants” or “young Arabs” (Laachir) regardless of the length of time they had been in the country. The French desire to see immigration from North African end and their desire to see North Africans removed from the country caused  a change in the way North Africans were treated.

The Paris Shay Youngblood and Eden experience is a Paris full of turmoil.The country was trying to find a way to deal with the influx of North African immigrants. However, the way the French reacted to the North African presence  caused more trouble. The bombings that took place throughout the city caused Frenchmen to look upon North African immigrants with suspicion. Dalil Boubakeur, the Imam of the Paris Mosque, said in an interview that “what we fear is that France comes to see every Muslim as a potential terrorist” (Laachir). His fear was legitimate because as a result of the terrorist acts, North Africans were treated as though they were terrorists, regardless of whether they were an activist or a normal citizen. North African immigrants had to deal with intense racism and their financial situation made life difficult for them. Paris in the late twentieth century was a difficult place for one to be North African, and these struggles are highlighted throughout Shay Youngblood’s novel.

Works Cited

Laachir, Karima. “France’s ‘Ethnic’ Minorities and the Question of Exclusion.”Mediterranean Politics 12.1 (2007): 99-105. Web. 14 November 2010.

Seljuq, Affan. “Cultural Conflicts: North African Immigrants in France.” The International Journal of Peace Studies 2.2 (1997). Web. 14 November 2010.

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