On Friday, February 25, we met Amanda Rogers and Stephen Mann of RPP Productions in New York at the Café Tournon to participate in a documentary for a Web TV program on “literary Paris.” They had heard that we have expertise regarding the African-American literati who frequented the café in the 1950s, and they wanted to film us talking about that history.
With the permission of the café’s owner, we occupied a corner of the dining area and were recorded discussing Chester Himes, Richard Wright, William Gardner Smith, and other men who met frequently at the café (perhaps sitting in the very same corner) to debate politics and particularly the condition of black people in the United States. They also played chess, drank, exchanged banter, and flirted with the local women who came by to see them.
After our conversation, we moved to the Luxembourg garden where Anna Bromwich, an English woman living in Paris, acted as moderator and asked us questions about black history in the neighborhood. I talked about Ira Aldridge, an American and perhaps the most famous Shakespearian actor in Europe in the 19th century. He performed the leading role in Othello at the Odéon Theater, across the street, in 1867. Monique talked about Alexandre Dumas, perhaps the most famous French writer of the 19th century, who is buried in the Panthéon. Its immense dome is visible from the garden, providing a great photo opportunity from our vantage point near the Medici fountain.
The photographs were taken by Bryan Pirolli, an American studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, who came by to help out Stephen, who operated the video camera.
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