Frederick Douglass in Paris and “in a Peevish Mood” [Washington Post, Dec. 1, 1886] & 2010 poster for gospel choir performance in Paris

Fred Douglass in a Peevish Mood.

Boston, Nov. 30. – Fred Douglass has written to friends from Paris saying that he has everywhere been received with civility, courtesy and kindness and as a man among men. “America has her missionaries abroad,” he says, “in the shape of Ethiopian singers who disfigure and distort the features of the negro and burlesque his language and manners in a way to make him appear to thousands as more akin to apes than men. This mode of warfare is purely American and it is carried on here in Paris as it is in the great cities of England and of the States, so that to many minds, as no good was thought to come out of Nazareth, so no good is expected of the negro. In addition to these Ethiopian buffoons and serenaders who presume to represent us abroad, there are malicious American writers who take pleasure in assailing us as an inferior and good-for-nothing race of which it is impossible to make anything.”

 

DreamCity

Europeans’ interest in black American culture continues in Paris today; black American gospel choirs perform regularly to packed cathedrals. Hip-hop music and culture, largely the creation of Jamaican and American peoples of African descent, can be seen in today’s Paris; graffiti is seemingly everywhere, and music is heard (in French and English) blaring from the shops of Montmartre and hundreds of headphones on the Métro.

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