Paris | Rosetta – Although contemporary African-American

Although contemporary African-American artists such as Lisa Simone and Denise King were able to find work in Paris, it was ironic that in the 1970s and 1980s European musicians learned to play jazz well enough to replace African-American jazz musicians in some of the very clubs that made them popular. Lisa Simone is a contemporary African-American jazz singer and artist who has been more successful in developing her art in Paris than in her homeland, the United States. I was there to write about the Richard Wright Centennial Conference. “Richard Wright, a noted writer and activist, author of several groundbreaking books on the African-American experience, including Black Boy and Native Son, moved to Paris in 1946 and became a permanent expatriate. The jazz colony in Paris began when, in 1918, a group of black musicians from the 369th Harlem Hell’s Infantry Regiment, led by James Reese Europe, made a long-awaited tour. But back to Josephine Baker: this extraordinary woman, whose circle of friends included Princess Grace of Monaco, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso, supported the French Resistance as a spy during World War II and was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor by General Charles de Gaulle. Although she renounced her American citizenship and became a French citizen, Baker was active in the civil rights movement in the United States. Denise King, a versatile African-American singer from Philadelphia, has been performing in jazz clubs in Paris since 2008. James Baldwin, a writer and civil rights activist, is another African-American cultural icon who has found refuge in Paris. African-American music, jazz, has found an unusually pleasant atmosphere in Paris. Ada Smith, a good friend of Baker’s, is another African-American artist and entrepreneur who caused a stir in Paris during the same period. Known as “Bricktop,” Smith’s fiery red hair was as striking as her exaggerated personality. Bricktop arrived in Paris in 1924. Trumpeter Louis Armstrong, clarinetist Sidney Bechet, saxophonist Charlie Parker, orchestrator Duke Ellington and trumpeter Miles Davis were just some of the many black American musicians who left their mark in Paris. Nina Simone, singer, pianist, composer and civil rights activist known worldwide as the “High Priestess of Soul,” was recognized in Paris and throughout Europe. Langston Hughes is another famous African-American writer and poet laureate who moved to Paris in the 1920s. Jazz plays an important role in African-American culture in Paris. Lisa Simone, a singer, actress, writer, composer, and arranger, is clearly part of a continuum that has largely popularized African-American culture around the world. In 1925, educator Anna Julia Cooper, whose legacy is revered by the American postage stamp, became the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from the Sorbonne.