Faculty Sponsor

Stephen Ortiz


During World War I, African-American soldiers came to France and discovered the relative diminishment of racial prejudices in the country. Since much of the United States still held racist Jim Crow era laws and prejudices, African-Americans had been barred from the same opportunities as their white counterparts. Because of this, many African- Americans moved to Paris during the interwar period to seek opportunities that were not available to them in the United States. This paper will explore how the less rigid and more nuanced racial ideologies found in Paris, enabled African-Americans to create strong relationships with Parisians and find the freedom that they were unable to find in the United States. By using the stories of James Reese Europe, Ada “Bricktop” Smith, and Josephine Baker as well as articles from The New York Times and popular African- American newspapers, I will explain to the reader how African-Americans were able to find success in Paris because of both the popularity of African-American culture with Parisians and the French population’s less rigid racial system.