French 190
Paris Noir: Black America in the City of Light

Dana Kress, Professor of French
Telephone: (318) 588-0377

Andia Augustin-Billy, Assistant Professor of French
Telephone in the U.S.: (314) 881-8041
Telephone in Paris:   06 61 92 98 97

Reading list:

Students will need to purchase the following texts:
Richard Wright, The Long Dream, Northeastern, 2000. ISBN: 978-1555534233.

The book we will read is the novel by Richard Wright so you should plan on picking up a copy before we leave for Paris. This text can be purchased at a moderate price. and are great resources for students who think ahead and want to save a lot of money!

You will also receive a packet of reading material the first day of class.                                                

The following resources are online and will be used when we return from Paris:

Richard Wright: “Richard Wright’s Love Letter to Paris,” The NEH Preservation Project.
Monique Wells, “Richard Wright’s Left Bank: A Black American in Paris,” The New York Times, November 9, 2001.

Services to Students with Disabilities:

It is the policy of Centenary College to accommodate students with disabilities pursuant to federal and state law and our commitment to equal educational opportunities. Students seeking support services/accommodations for a disability must first register with Disability Services (a division of the Counseling Center, 318-869-5466/5424, located on the ground floor of Rotary Hall) and should begin this process as early as possible. Students with accommodations approved through Disability Services are responsible for contacting the faculty member in charge of the course prior to or during the first days of the term to discuss needed accommodations. We will gladly make appropriate accommodations based on disability to ensure the playing field is and remains level for all students.

About this course

As the first experience/course you will have at Centenary, this class will be an intellectually engaging (and fun) academic experience that will excite you about the kinds of ideas, issues, subject matters, and critical thinking you will be exposed to over the next four years. This will be a socially engaging experience that will help you bond with your peers and demonstrate to you what the College stands for: Centenary is a small liberal arts college with a global vision. Our motto could easily be: “you come to Centenary; we give you the world.” Paris has been historically one of the great centers of Western culture and today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. France and the U.S., and particularly Louisiana, have had a long and important cultural, political, and economic relationship.
Learning Objectives

This course has been designed to meet the challenges of socially expanding circles.   History has shown us that people do not always share our values or experiences. At the same time, we are becoming more aware of our interdependent relationship to the world around us. Our challenge, then, is to expand our understanding to promote respectful engagement with a broader world. Learning facts about African-Americans in Paris or reading their books might increase your factual knowledge but would not necessarily expand your understanding of the world around you. This is not the subject of this course, even though you will undoubtedly learn a lot of new things. In this class, we will explore Paris as seen through the eyes of a few of the countless African-Americans of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who sought refuge there. “Paris through the eyes of others” might be one title for the course; as such, this course would constitute a worthy effort to understand French culture through a filter other than your own. While this would be a worthwhile endeavor to “expand one’s circles,” the deeper goal is “other”. All the African-American ex-patriots who sought refuge in Paris did so because they were born in a country that did not share or value their experiences and that denied them the very human dignity they found so abundantly in France. As we look at the lives of these exiles we should ask the questions: “Why did they leave everything they knew to live in a foreign land?” “What did they find there?” “How did they come to see their own homeland, the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave?’” Most importantly, how can we use their experiences to “create the common ground necessary to build mutually beneficial relationships” through respectful engagement with a broader world. The goal is to help you do a better job than many who have gone before you. It is a great responsibility.

Course Policies
1. You are expected to come to class on time every day. Study the material specified on the syllabus or in class! Your attendance and participation will have a definite impact on your grade. This class will require your active participation and obviously to participate you must be present. If you are not ready at the appointed time in Paris you will be left at the FIAP and will be counted as absent. Students who have an absence will have their final grade lowered one full letter. For additional absences there will be a penalty of 10 points per day before the letter grade is dropped.
2. Plan on having a quiz every day, especially during the part of class that will take place in Shreveport.
3. Make ups: No make-ups for an unexcused absence are given. In case of excused absences, I may choose not to give a make-up; instead I may choose not to count that quiz in your average.
4. Final project. Each day you will receive a prompt or question concerning the material covered that day. Over the course of the day you will need to take at least photograph that somehow illustrates or illuminates the question at hand. You must also write a page in which you analyze the image you have chosen and discuss the question you have been given. This journal/writing assignment is due the last day of class. It must be typed (keep a hand-written journal while in Paris) and turned in as an electronic file. From this material you will submit a final project totaling 10 pages of typed material and at least 10 photographs. Take high resolution photos because they will be submitted to the Centenary in Paris Exhibit. Photos will be judged on the artistic quality of the shot.

4. Please note:

  • that policies outlined in the the Centenary Student Handbook, including not drinking or possessing alcohol while under the age of 21 y.o., is in effect for CiP.  Violations may result in suspension, expulsion, and/or being sent home. In addition, you are responsible for all resulting expenses and consequences, including but not limited to failure in this course.
  • that it is your responsibility to be at all activities & meeting places on time, and that if you're late, the group may leave without you, resulting in you being responsible for all costs associated with catching up to the group. 


Quizzes                       20
Participation                20
Presentations               20
Midterm exam             20
Final Project                20            

You can access the online quizzes on Canvas!                                                                                        

N.B. This course uses a standard university grading scale: 90% = A, 80% = B, 70% = C, 60% = D, below 60% = F.

Syllabus for “Paris Noir: “Black America in the City of Light”

I. Monday August 7


Introduction—Class orientation and assignments. Jackson 103                                 
Jackson 103-111


Required film: Notre Dame de Paris

II. Tuesday, Aug. 8  


James Baldwin: "The Discovery of What it Means to be an American", Bring a copy of this text to class. N.B. You can print it at the library.
Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light.
Armand Lanusse: "A Consciencious Marriage,"
Expect a quiz on each of these three readings!!


Film and discussion: Harlem à Montmartre

III. Wednesday, Aug. 9


Adah Issacs Menken. Infelicia, Be sure to read the material in your packet and the material contained in the two links here.


Film and Discussion: The Josephine Baker Story 

IV. Thursday, Aug. 10 

Leave Shreveport for Paris.

IV. Friday, Aug. 11 


Arrive in Paris and getting settled at the FIAP


Dinner at the FIAP


Bed at last!

V. Saturday, Aug. 12


BREAKFAST: Breakfast will be at the Européen, the self-service restaurant at the FIAP Jean Monnet. Open Mondays to Saturdays from 6.45 a.m. to 8.45 a.m. and on Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. For another €1: extra croissant, fruit compote, fruit salad, fresh fruit, yoghourt, cooked ham. The meal is completely self-service.

  • Unlimited hot beverages (coffee, milk, tea, hot chocolate)
  • 1 fruit juice
  • 1 croissant
  • 1 bread roll or crisp breads
  • butter
  • 1 serving of jam/honey or chocolate spread
  • cereal and cold milk
  • cream cheese


Exploring Paris like a Parisian with young Parisians—by Trottinette!
You need to gather in the lobby of the hostel by 9:30! You should have finished breakfast and taken care of any personal chores before this time. Please note that the FIAP has a thirty minute limit access for computer use—available ONLY in the lobby—per day. Please be sure to have a small pack to carry your class material and drinks in. Most students will also want to take an extra bottle of water and perhaps a snack or two. Please complete all such preparations and BE READY to roll by 9:30 on the dot! Tardiness WILL affect your grade for this class!


Picnic lunch at the Medici Fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens
Fontaine Médicis,.jpg


Visit to the Pantheon—Alexandre Dumas, a New World Creole


Return to FIAP around 4!


Dinner at the FIAP


Fête des Tuileries

VI. Sunday, Aug. 13


Père Lachaise Cemetary,

Tombs of Victor Séjour (section 15), Norbert Rillieux, and Numa Lanusse (ashes dispersed in the Jardin du Souvenir), Richard Wright, William Gardner Smith (also in the J du S. This garden, created specifically for the purpose of dispersing the ashes of the deceased, is located in Division 77, near the Porte de la Dhuys entrance.)

     Séjour was born in New Orleans to a free mulatto father from Santo Domingo, and Eloisa Phillippe Ferrand, a free African-American octoroon born in New Orleans. His parents were wealthy, and had him educated in a private school. At the age of nineteen he moved to Paris to continue his education and find work. There he met members of the Parisian literary elite, including Cyrille Bisette, publisher of the black-owned journal La Revue des Colonies. Bisette published "Le Mulâtre", Séjour's first work, in 1837. The story of a loyal slave exacting revenge on his cruel master/father for the death of his wife, "Le Mulâtre" contains an indictment of New World slavery that is found in none of Séjour's subsequent work. Séjour then turned away from written fiction, and composed an ode to Napoleon in 1841 and the verse drama The Jew of Seville in 1844. The latter cemented his reputation as a playwright; he went on to write Richard III, a Shakespeare-inspired costume drama about Richard III of England that became his most acclaimed work.
Readings: On site:
Victor Séjour: “The Mulatto” [In the binder.]
Presentation on site of poetry by Louisiana Creoles of Color:
Armand Lanusse, « Un frère au tombeau de son frère »

Picnic Lunch


“Richard Wright’s Left Bank, A Walking Tour,” Monique Wells, The New York Times, November 9, 2001. Read the article before we leave. Then, on the map you find in your package, trace the route we will take to see Richard Wright’s Paris.


Dinner at the FIAP

VII. Monday, August 14


Notre Dame de Paris, We will be leaving EARLY Sunday morning to beat the crowds at Notre Dame. BE READY TO LEAVE AT 8 AM!!!     


Visit to the Paris “Harlem” and Sack lunch at Sacré Cœur




Dinner in Paris!

8:30-10 :00

Concert at La Sainte Chapelle near Notre Dame, (Marion Anderson sang here)

VIII. Tuesday, August 15    


BREAKFAST: Breakfast at the FIAP


Travel by metro to the Place de la République, Metro station: République


A brief history of the square and of the monument to the Republic. Léopold and Charles Morice, Iconography of the monument/Marianne/ the Lion/the Urn/ Les Droits de l’Homme, etc.

Pierre Aristide Desdunes, Rappelez-vous concitoyens ! La poésie de Pierre-Aristide Desdunes. Introduction and Notes by Caryn-Cossé Bell. Shreveport: Les Éditions Tintamarre, 2009.[This is part of the binder I gave you] Expect a quiz!

Presentation on site of poetry by Louisiana Creoles of Color :
Poetry by Desdunes: « Les Pensées d’un esclave soldat », « Ressentiment d’un être sans patrie ! », « L’Idéal », « L’Exilé », « Le Suicide ».
Poetry by Camille Naudin : « La Marseillaise noire »


Picnic lunch in the Place de la République. Visit to the Place de Vosges (The oldest planned square in the city and one of the finest.) (We'll buy sandwiches and drinks at any of the many small restaurants there.)


Conciergerie / Shopping


Return to FIAP


Dinner at the FIAP

IX. Wednesday, August. 16




Lunch at the FIAP


The Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Élysées


Dinner on the town with your professor!

X. Thursday, August. 17


Visit to the Musée d’Orsay. Watch for African-American artists in Paris: Henry O. Tanner, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, Augusta Savage, and Lois Mailou Jones. MIDTERM EXAM!


Sack Lunch


Free Time!


Party on the riverboat on the Seine

XI. Friday, August 18


Leave Paris for Shreveport

XII. Saturday, August 19, Rest! No classes!

XIII. Sunday, August 20, Rest! No classes!

XIV. Monday, August 21


Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 1-7


Film and Discussion: When African Americans Came to Paris

XV. Tuesday, August 22

9:00-11:45 Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 8-13


Film and Discussion: TBA

XVI.Wednesday, August 23


Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 14-24


Film and Discussion: Les Bleus: une autre histoire de France 

XVII. Thursday, August 24


Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 25-32


Film and Discussion: Pièces d’Identité

XVIII. Friday, August 25


Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 33-45


Film and Discussion: TBA
W.E.B. Dubois and the 1900 Paris Exposition: His prize-winning photographic exhibit defied the existing view of African American life and prosperity only 35 years after Emancipation.
Henry Ossawa Tanner: An Artist in Exile: The first African-American artist to make it big on the international scene. The Harlem Hellfighters: The much decorated WWI African-American soldiers who served under French Army command. James Reese Europe: Warrior and Musician: The combat lieutenant and bandleader whose rollicking music fired France's lifelong affair with jazz. Jazz Comes To Paris: The explosion of jazz after WWI and the making of the legendary Harlem of Montmartre. The Women Artists in Paris: The challenging but fruitful experiences of sculptors Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, Augusta Savage, and painter Lois Mailou Jones.