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

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

Andia Augustin-Billy, Associate Professor of French
Telephone in the U.S.: (314) 881-8041

Reading list: You will not need to purchase this text :
Richard Wright, The Long Dream, Northeastern, 2000. ISBN: 978-1555534233.

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

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. Photo project. Be sure to take photos that you will submit for the show to be held at the Meadows Museum.

5. Please note:


Quizzes                         20
Participation                 20
Presentations                20
Midterm/Final exam     20
Photo 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 July 31

9:00-11:45 Introduction—Class orientation and assignments. Jackson 113
1:00-  Required film: Notre Dame de Paris

II. Tuesday, Aug. 1 

9:00-11:45 James Baldwin, The Discovery of What It Means to be an American
Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light. Expect a quiz!!
1:00-3:45 Film and discussion: Harlem à Montmartre

III. Wednesday, Aug. 2

9:00-11:45 Adah Issacs Menken. Infelicia, Marian Anderson, Song: They Crucified my Lord, La Sainte Chapelle
1:00-3:45 Film and Discussion: The Josephine Baker Story 

IV. Thursday, Aug. 3

Leave Shreveport for Paris.

IV. Friday, Aug. 4 

Morning Arrive in Paris and getting settled at the FIAP. Lunch at Denfert Rochereau, Afternoon visit to Paris
7:00 Dinner at the FIAP
10:00 Bed at last!

V. Saturday, Aug. 5


BREAKFAST: Breakfast will be 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. The meal is completely self-service.

  • Unlimited hot beverages (coffee, milk, tea, hot chocolate)
  • fruit juice
  • croissants
  • bread rolls or baguettes
  • butter
  • cereal and cold milk
  • cream cheese
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • fruit
9:15 Visit to the Panthéon—Alexandre Dumas and Louisa Lamotte: two New World Creoles. You need to gather in the lobby of the hostel by 9:15! You should have finished breakfast and taken care of any personal chores before this time. Please note that the FIAP limits computer use—and you will probably get the best connection in the lobby. 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 9:15 on the dot! Tardiness WILL affect your grade for this class and you may be left at the FIAP until our return. Quiz on Louisia Lamotte.
12:00-1:00 Lunch near the Pantheon!
1:00 “The Great Paris-Noir Richard Wright Race,” On the maps you find in your package, follow the route you will take to see Richard Wright’s Paris. Be sure to complete the “quiz” before you return to the FIAP!
4:00 Return to FIAP around 4!
6-7:00 Dinner at the FIAP
7:00 Fête des Tuileries

VI. Sunday, Aug. 6

9:00-1:00 Père Lachaise Cemetery,

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 Saint Domingue,  (modern-day Haiti), 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

6;00 Dinner in Paris! Be ready in the lobby of the FIAP at 5:30

VII. Monday, August 7

8:00 BE READY TO LEAVE AT 9 AM!!!     Visit to the Paris “Harlem,” Reading: “Against the Grain: Black Women and Sexuality”
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Visit to the dome of Sacré Coeur
2:00 The Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Élysées/Free time
6:00 Dinner at the FIAP
8:00-11:00 Jazz at the Caveau de la Huchette!

VIII. Tuesday, August 8    

8:00 BREAKFAST: Breakfast at the FIAP
9-10 Travel by metro to the Place de la République, Metro station: République
10:00-12:00 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 »

11:30-1:30 Picnic lunch in the Place de la République. (We'll buy sandwiches and drinks at any of the many small restaurants there.) Visit to the Place de Vosges (The oldest planned square in the city and one of the finest.)
1:30- Le Musée Carnavalet/ Shopping
5:00 Return to FIAP
6:30-8:30 Dinner at the FIAP

IX. Wednesday, August 9

8:00-2:00  Versailles
1:00 Lunch
3:00-6:00 Free Time
6:00 Dinner at the FIAP

X. Thursday, August. 10

10:30-12:00 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.
12:00-2:00 Lunch
6:00-10:00 Party on the riverboat on the Seine

XI. Friday, August 11

5 A.M.  Leave Paris for Shreveport

XII. Saturday, August 12, Rest! No classes!

XIII. Sunday, August 13, Rest! No classes!

XIV. Monday, August 14

9:00-11:45 MIDTERM/FINAL EXAM DUE!  Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 1-7
1:15-3:45  Film and Discussion: When African Americans Came to Paris

XV. Tuesday, August 15

9:00-11:45 Richard Wright’s Love Letter to Paris, Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 8-13
1:15-3:45  Film and Discussion: TBA

XVI. Wednesday, August 16

9:00-11:45 Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 14-24
1:15-3:45 Film and Discussion: Les Bleus: une autre histoire de France 

XVII. Thursday, August 17

9:00-11:00 Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 25-32
1:15-3:45 Reading! 

XVIII. Friday, August 18

9:00-11:45 Richard Wright: The Long Dream, Chapters 33-45
1:15-3:45 Film and Discussion: TBA
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.