Archive for the ‘American history in Paris’ Category

African Americans in the City of Light – The Film

Friday, February 26th, 2016
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African Americans in the City of Light

The last conference to be held around the themes evoked by the Beauford Delaney exhibition in Paris took place last night. Entitled “African Americans in the City of Light,” the conference opened with the screening of a documentary film of the same name.

Produced by Joanne and David Burke of Blue Lion Films, this one-hour video features the story of African-American artists, writers, entertainers, and musicians who lived in Paris from the period following World War I to the Nazi occupation of France in 1940. Some of the persons featured are:

  • Josephine Baker
  • Langston Hughes
  • Palmer Hayden
  • Eugene Bullard
  • Loïs Mailou Jones

After the screening, the associate producer, Julia Browne of Walking the Spirit Tours, answered questions from the audience and facilitated lively discussion.

The film is scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2016. For further information and to place an order, contact info@africanamericansinparis.com.

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What’s New at Discover Paris! – End-of-Year Edition

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015
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Discover Paris! has been quite active during this last month of 2015 – things have been so hectic that we just now realized that we’ve neglected to tell you why!

Our own Monique Y. Wells recently founded a non-profit organization called Wells International Foundation (WIF). The foundation’s inaugural project is the Beauford Delaney and Paris exhibition that we mentioned in our last “What’s New” mailing to you. This show brings together three of WIF’s focus areas of activity – the arts, study abroad, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).

WIF is partnering with a number of organizations, including Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, a French non-profit association that Monique founded in 2009, and Columbia Global Centers | Europe at Reid Hall in Paris to present the exhibition. It will consist of over 40 paintings and works on paper by American artist Beauford Delaney (1901-1979), many of which have never been seen by the general public before. The grand opening is scheduled for February 3, 2016 and the show will run from February 4-29, 2016.

WIF is also collaborating with J Rêve International, an organization that fosters visual and performing arts, creative education, and global exchanges to transform lives and communities. During the exhibition, J Rêve International will host a Global Educator Program workshop on STEAM education and multiple intelligences based on Beauford Delaney’s life and work. Six teachers from New York, South Korea (via Ohio), and Texas will participate in the week-long workshop designed to develop experience that equips them with the global competencies necessary to bring an international arts perspective to their schools.

Additionally, WIF is partnering with the University of Arizona to organize an Augmented Reality Project. Five students, led by Professor Bryan Carter, will come to Paris to create an app (a small, specialized program that is downloaded into mobile devices) that will allow persons attending the exhibition to scan paintings with devices such as smartphones, causing a video to appear on the screen that provides information about the painting. The teachers from the Global Educator Program will be able to use this app during their workshop in Paris and take the technology back to their respective school districts in the U.S. at the end of the program.

Teachers and students will enjoy the newest Entrée to Black Paris walking tour, Beauford Delaney’s Montparnasse, which Monique has created for the exhibition.

The University of Arizona students are currently raising money for their trip to Paris and have created a video that explains why they are so passionate about this project. View their 2’15” video at the link below and make a donation to support them. If you need a last minute tax deduction for 2015, this is a great way to get one!

https://www.crowdrise.com/universityofarizonas

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Monique Y. Wells’ Interview on IDFM 98 Radio Enghien

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
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Ollia Horton and Monique Y. Wells at IDFM Radio 98 in Enghien

Ollia Horton and Monique Y. Wells at IDFM Radio 98 in Enghien
Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

Ollia Horton of Happy Hour on IDFM 98 Radio Enghien recently interviewed our own Monique Y. Wells. Here is a synopsis of the interview.

  • Monique’s background
  • Why we created Discover Paris!
  • Why we created African-American history in Paris walks
  • Beauford Delaney – an American artist
  • Dining Out in Paris – our new book
  • Discover Paris! – our activities around food, including gourmet tours
  • Monique’s experiences in learning French and why she wanted to live in France
  • Follow this link to listen to the interview: Ollia Horton’s Happy Hour – Radio IDFM 98. (The interview is roughly 19 minutes long.)

    Bonne écoute!

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    Sally Hemings in Paris

    Saturday, April 12th, 2014
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    Marisa Williamson as Sally Hemings

    Marisa Williamson as Sally Hemings
    Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

    Artist Marisa Williamson came to Paris recently in the guise of Sally Hemings, the slave-mistress of Thomas Jefferson. Williamson was turning a film about Hemings, who could have chosen to remain a free woman in Paris rather than return with Jefferson to the United States to live as a slave.

    From left to right: Avery Williamson, Charlotte Bayer, Monique Y. Wells, Marisa Williamson

    From left to right: Avery Williamson, Charlotte Bayer, Monique Y. Wells, Marisa Williamson
    Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

    Dressed in period costume, Williamson played the role of Hemings, a young woman who was “struggling to decide whether to claim her freedom in a foreign land, or return home…” She interviewed a number of African Americans to learn why they came to Paris and how they perceived themselves as blacks living in France.

    Marisa Williamson and Monique Y. Wells

    Marisa Williamson and Monique Y. Wells
    Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

    Williamson was assisted by Charlotte Bayer, who filmed the encounter of Hemings with our own Monique Y. Wells on a park bench in Paris, and her sister Avery Williamson, who photographed the shoot. The film is scheduled for release in August 2014.

    Information about Marisa Williamson’s film project can be found here: Hemings in Paris.

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    American History Day Trips near Paris – Part II
    By Anna Eklund-Cheong

    Saturday, February 15th, 2014
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    Escadrille Lafayette Memorial

    Escadrille Lafayette Memorial
    Photograph Courtesy of Eric Hian-Cheong

    In Part I of this blog, we read about the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial on Mont Valérien, which lies only a few minutes by train outside of Paris. Today, we explore the Mémorial de L’Escadrille LaFayette that was built to honor the volunteer American pilots who flew and died for France in WWI, before the U.S. officially entered the war in 1917. It is found at the Parc de Villeneuve-L’Etang in the town of Marnes-la-Coquette, a little farther west than the Suresnes Cemetery.

    Before leaving Paris to visit the Escadrille memorial, pack a lunch! You may well want to picnic in the Parc de Villeneuve-L’Etang—there are many species of birds and water fowl living around a small lake there. It’s only a 20- to 25-minute trip on the train from Gare Saint Lazare to the Garches-Marnes-la-Coquette station. From there, it’s a 10-minute walk to the park entrance and the memorial.

    At the site, you’ll discover a large and richly decorated, white stone triumphal arch with carved, relief likenesses of George Washington and Lafayette.  A colorful mosaic of the squadron’s insignia is under the arch.  The pilots’ tombs are beneath the monument.  On a sunny day, if you go down the stairs and peek through the doors of the crypt, you’ll be able to glimpse the remarkable stained-glass windows that line the crypt walls, illustrating some of the famous air battles.

    The exploits of the pilots of the Lafayette Squadron were featured in a 2006 film Flyboys, starring James Franco (rated PG-13).  The New England Air Museum has published some of the content of its exhibit on the squadron here.

    Read more about the memorial (in French) here.

    Anna Eklund-Cheong, a resident of France since 2000, gives tours on Franco-American history in Paris; a pair were offered through WICE last fall; two more will be offered through the American Women’s Group this spring. She’s recently started a Web site/blog that gives voice to her creative heart, as well as a Facebook page.

    Photographs by Eric Hian-Cheong can be viewed at Eric Hian-Cheong Photography.

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    American History Day Trips near Paris – Part I
    By Anna Eklund-Cheong

    Friday, February 7th, 2014
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    American Cemetery in Suresnes

    American Cemetery in Suresnes
    Photograph Courtesy of Eric Hian-Cheong

    It’s 2014, and the history buffs among us know this year marks the 100th anniversary of the onset of WWI.  It’s also the 70th anniversary year of the D-Day landings on Normandy’s beaches during WWII.  There are several interesting historical sites in Ile-de-France (and the surrounding area) that lend themselves well to day trips or weekend getaways related to these two “shared” wars. We’ll consider one of these memorials in Part I of the blog and two others in an upcoming Part II.

    Almost every town in France has a small memorial to its “native sons” (and daughters) who died for their country in The Great War:  a plaque engraved with their names in the town church; a monument, statue, or sculpture erected to their memory in a central town square.  They were literally The Lost Generation, in the saddest sense. But the French generously memorialized the foreigners who died for France, too—the soldiers who served in the French Foreign Legion, other non-French volunteers, and the Allies who fought under their own flags.  Let’s look at one memorial built to honor Americans near Paris…and consider visiting, or revisiting, it in this centennial year.

    American Cemetery and Memorial on Mont Valérien in Suresnes

    Many American travelers have visited the sites near Verdun related to the horrific battles of WWI that transpired in the area.  The huge Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial, for example, with over 14,000 graves, is the largest American cemetery in Europe.  But I’ll wager that fewer readers have been just five miles west of Paris to visit the lovely and peaceful site of the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial on Mont Valérien.

    Beautiful and moving, the cemetery’s chapel (open to the public) is the focal point for paying homage to over 1500 American servicemen and women who died in the Paris area during WWI, including a pair of brothers, a pair of sisters, and seven nurses.  Row upon row of bright white marble grave markers illuminate the sacrifices made to save France.  Stop by the office during open hours and the American superintendant will be happy to answer your questions and tell you about the most interesting features and stories.  [Personal note:  I attended the Veteran’s Day (November 11) wreath-laying ceremony in 2013 with my sons’ old Boy Scouts of America troop (BSA Troop 112, Paris, France).  I was touched by the solemnity of the annual event and the brief addresses of honor given by the French and American civil and military officials who were there.]

    To reach the site via public transport, take a train from Gare Saint Lazare to the Suresnes-Mont Valérien station (a 15- to 20-minute trip) and then walk ten minutes to the front gate.  The site is also served by bus from some Paris neighborhoods, such as Auteuil.  There is a panoramic view of Paris from the plateau across the street. Memorials to France’s fallen WWII heroes dot the hillside.

    For more details, see the American Battle Monuments Commission Web site.  The 5-minute video on the homepage gives an inspiring overview of all of the ABMC sites around the world.

    Anna Eklund-Cheong, a resident of France since 2000, gives tours on Franco-American history in Paris; a pair were offered through WICE last fall; two more will be offered through the American Women’s Group this spring.  She’s recently started a Web site/blog that gives voice to her creative heart, as well as a Facebook page.

    Photographs by Eric Hian-Cheong can be viewed at Eric Hian-Cheong Photography.

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    We’re on CNN!

    Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
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    Monique Y. Wells Presenting Our New Josephine Baker Walk

    Monique Y. Wells Presenting
    Our New Josephine Baker Walk

    Photograph by www.DiscoverParis.net

    We’re super excited about the CNN article that came out yesterday about African Americans in Paris. Entrée to Black Paris is featured in the third—and longest—section! In the article, you’ll find links to Southern Passion Lounge in Paris, Black Paris Profiles, and our newest Josephine Baker walk. Click on the embedded link above to “read all about it!”

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    Author and Historian David McCullough Feted at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence

    Saturday, May 26th, 2012
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    Monique Y. Wells and David McCullough at the U.S. Ambassador's Residence in Paris

    David McCullough Autographs His Book The Greater Journey for Monique Y. Wells, Co-founder of Discover Paris!
    Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

    David McCullough, award-winning author and historian, was guest of honor at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Paris last night. His most recent book, The Greater Journey, is about Americans who lived in Paris from the 1830s to the 1900s.

    In his speech, McCullough talked about the importance of the Franco-American relationship, asserting that the United States would not have gained its independence without the financial, military, and intellectual support of France. In reference to France’s intellectual influence, he stated the the founding fathers who came to Paris felt at home here because the ideals of freedom were being discussed in intellectual circles at that time.

    A speaker on hundreds of college campuses, McCullough spoke of his dismay that students today are historically illiterate. He talked about the importance of studying history and stated that history is more than just political and military narrative. History covers all human activity, including art, architecture, music, and poetry.

    History, he said, shows that individuals cannot achieve great things alone, that they must work with others in a community. An historian, he said, is forcibly a short-term pessimist and a long-term optimist.

    McCullough came to Paris for the first time in 1961. He loves the city and the research that he performs here. He was particularly proud to announce that his granddaughter, who attended the event, is currently studying French in Paris.

    A film crew from the Public Broadcasting System filmed McCullough’s presentation. Journalist Morley Safer and stage and screen star Olivia de Havilland (who played the roll of Melanie Hamilton in the movie Gone with the Wind) were among the guests.

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    A Day at the Races with Gina Rarick – Part I

    Saturday, April 28th, 2012
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    Out of the Gate!

    Out of the Gate!
    Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

    On Sunday, April 15, Monique and I went to the Longchamp racetrack for a guided tour of the hippodrome with Gina Rarick, the only American professional racehorse trainer in France and the first American woman granted a license here. The event was organized by Mark Tronco for the members of the Paris Alumnae/i Network. We met Mark at the entrance to the racecourse and he escorted us into the grandstand, where Gina gave an opening presentation.

    Gina Rarick, Racehorse Trainer

    Gina Rarick, Racehorse Trainer
    Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

    Gina was raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She began a career in journalism at the Milwaukee Journal in 1984. She moved on to the Milwaukee Sentinel and then to Knight-Ridder Financial News in Chicago. Her interest in horses was rekindled in Chicago, where she took riding lessons at a downtown carriage-horse stable. She moved on to the International Herald Tribune in Paris, where she covered major race meetings around the world.

    In Paris, her passion for horses continued to grow and she joined riding clubs in the region. She learned to ride racehorses and rode (and won) her first race at the age of 38! She is now a professional thoroughbred racehorse trainer.

    Enjoying the Good Life at the Racetrack

    Enjoying the Good Life at the Racetrack
    Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

    While listening to Gina’s presentation, the members of the group brought out their picnic lunches. Monique and I had packed two pâtés (duck and pork), Comté cheese, fig bread, and…champagne. In spite of the brisk, overcast weather, the day was starting out well!

    Next: Gina takes us on a tour.

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    Exploring African-American History in Paris with Discover Paris!
    By Francine Allen, Guest Blogger

    Saturday, August 13th, 2011
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    Monique Y. Wells (left) and
    Francine Allen (right)
    at Notre Dame Cathedral
    Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

    The Eiffel Tower scales the sky.

    Yet, its height is easily matched by depth—the depth of history held by the city in which it stands: Paris.

    The buildings and streets of Paris tell a deep and rich history of the African-American experience, a history that Monique Wells and Tom Reeves of Discover Paris! helped me to discover. Their meticulous tour planning enabled me, as a first-time visitor, to travel with ease throughout Paris, learning of African-American history in a context and setting far beyond the U.S. border.

    Touring Paris
    Initially, the prospect of using the Paris metro system to tour the City was intimidating, an intimidation compounded by my very limited French-speaking ability. However, when Monique Wells walked with me to the metro station soon after my arrival in the City and showed me how to read the metro maps, her quick lesson in metro map-reading made it possible for me during the remainder of my time in Paris to ride the metro confidentially, visiting all of the tour sites outlined in the personalized schedule that she and Tom helped me design. My confidence and comfort level in Paris were further boosted by the fact that the metro system was only a very short walking distance from the quaint and comfortable hotel that Monique and Tom found and booked for me long before my arrival in the City.

    After leaving Paris, I traveled to the southern part of France, to the hilltop village of St. Paul de Vence, where novelist and essayist James Baldwin lived and died. Here again, Discover Paris! made my travel to the village smooth, finding drivers who were both punctual and kind as they transported me between the train station and my hotel in Nice, and later, between the train station and the airport in Paris.

    Learning of the African-American Presence in Paris
    The ease with which Discover Paris! enabled me to travel throughout Paris and to other areas of France allowed me to focus on my primary purpose for visiting the City—delving into the African-American experience in the City. As Monique revealed in her tour, this experience is wide and deep, with building after building in Paris testifying to the black presence in Paris. There stands, for instance, the Casino de Paris where Josephine Baker performed. Then, among the never-ending array of Paris cafes sits the famous Café de Flore where, in one of its upper rooms, James Baldwin wrote Go Tell It on the Mountain. Along a road running by the cabaret Moulin Rouge arises the residence where Langston Hughes lived briefly. Beyond these buildings, there stand other buildings and areas that testify to the many lesser-known African Americans who also lived in the City, opening businesses in Paris at a time when doing so would have been unheard of in the United States.

    This legacy, this historical fact of the black presence in Paris is not merely a matter of history. African Americans are still living and working in Paris, as is the case of novelist Jake Lamar. After Discover Paris! set up an interview for me with Lamar, I learned from this Bronx native who has chosen to make his home in Paris that, for him, one main attraction of the City is the love Paris shows the literary artist, regardless of his or her level of notoriety. This stands in contrast, Lamar says, to the U.S., which tends to give greatest attention to the most acclaimed literary artists.

    Understanding the Global Nature of the African-American Experience
    In creating a uniquely designed tour for me, Discover Paris! helped me to think of Paris beyond mere stereotypical images. Rather, I came to see how the City itself enriches the study of African-American history in three key ways. First, it reveals the very global nature of the African-American experience and the way in which this experience, in order to be fully understood, must be considered, studied, and explored beyond the borders of the United States. Secondly, the City highlights how the global aspect of the African-American experience includes not only Africa but Europe as well. Finally, the City’s history suggests that the pursuit of freedom continues to characterize the African-American experience, whether that pursuit is prompted as it was decades ago by a desire to escape segregation and Jim Crow or whether it is inspired today by the simple pleasure of freely enjoying life in a nation different from one’s birth.

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    We wish to thank Francine Allen for contributing this article to our blog.

    For information about our African-American history in Paris tours, follow this link.