Blacks In & London & Places Of Interest

Old Mar 12th, 2000, 06:06 PM
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Blacks In & London & Places Of Interest

I would like to ask if there are any sites or activities of interest in Paris & London
that relate to Blacks and their history and culture there. Also are African Americans
accepted openly in Paris & London? Ths is a first trip for us to Europe and we want it also to be educational regrading cultural of people of color (like ourselves) in Europe.
Old Mar 12th, 2000, 06:27 PM
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I'm sorry I can't answer the first part of your question but in all the years (and we've traveled there many many times) we've been to Paris & London we have never noticed anyone treating African Americans any differently than they treated my husband and myself. I'd say overall tolerance for other races is more widely accepted in Europe than in many parts of the U.S. There are many natives of what was once colonies of France and England living in both of these cities as well as tourists, they are very cosmopolitan cities. I'm sure you will have a wonderful time, you can't miss in Paris and London.
Old Mar 12th, 2000, 06:30 PM
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I'm unaware of any sites or activities like those you describe. As an African-American who has traveled in London, Italy, Spain, Holland, and Germany, I can ease your mind a bit, though. I never had a problem with anyone or felt that I was receiving sub-par service. Everyone was quite kind, especially in London. At worst, I sometimes felt that I stood out a bit or was being stared at, but then again, I was staring at everyone there, too. Have a great time!
Old Mar 13th, 2000, 03:13 AM
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Not sure about London, but I recall that some of the slaver ports - Bristol, Liverpool, have sites.
Although the UK profited enormously from the slave trade to America, few Black slaves were imported into the UK itself.These few were expensive status symbols and as such were often better treated than the commoners.
Racism is present in most societies to a greater or lesser extent, so any assessments would have to be comparative.I don't know enough about the US to be sure, but I would guess that most of Europe would be less racist.
In an area where cultural values, languages etc. vary so much, attitudes to racism will also vary.London & Paris are OK, but many other cities are more enlightened.
Old Mar 13th, 2000, 10:12 AM
Ben Haines
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Dear Mr Morris,

A web site discusses the influence of people of African descent in Paris: I think you'll finmd Africa well covered there in the Musee de l'Homme in the Palais de Challot. There may well be temporary exhibitions on Africa and the diaspora: you'd find them in, under "Musees".

In London the main representation of Africa, the Caribbean, and Mauritius today is at the Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street, but it's closed for redesign until 2002. Sorry. The west front of Westminster Abbey has life-sized statues of twentieth-century martyrs, including Martin Luther King and I think of the Archbishop of Uganda. The eighteenth century rooms in the National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square have portraits of some of the blacks of eighteenth century London (phone 306 0055). The Africa Centre on King Street (tube Covent Garden) often has exhibitions of African work, and always has the Calabash Restautrant. If you phoned Dr Johnson's House, 17 Gough Square, Blackfriars tube station, 0171 353 3745, staff would tell you whether his famous black servant is properly celebrated there. On the wall of the main staircase in the British Museum are the Benin Bronzes: tube Holborn Kingsway. Then three blocks north is the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the north east corner of Russell Squsare. In term time they have several lectures a week on African topics: this week's list is on The last two rooms of the Museum of Lonmdon mark the change of th city to multiculturalism, with a plessant reference to the Notting Hill Carnival, the greatest in Europe. We moved it to August, as Shrove Tuesday here is too cold. I suppose you won't be here in the last weekend of August, when Notting Hill (which is nothing like so white as the film said) stops all motor cars for the Carnival ?

And I think that's it -- not much, I'm afraid. As Frank says, museums that handle the slave trade are in Bristol and Liverpool, the great slaver ports.

But museums are history. I think that what you want to do is buy the listings magazine "Time Out" in a newsagent's stall in the arrival concourse oif the airport you come to, and look under "Music: folk and roots" for African music. There's a fair amount around, especially in Brixton. And whether there's music there or no you'll enjoy the markets of Brixton on a Friday or Saturday morning, with fruit, vegetables, fish, CDs and LPs -- like Kingstown, only more so.

Yes: African Americans (and indeed African Britons and African Africans) are accepted routinely in London. We have moved a long way in fifty years, but must still work to sweep racism out of the London police and the Brigade of Guards. (The problem there is the mindset of the sergeants, not the generals, and Prince Charles has voiced public disquiet over the colour of the soldiers who guard him -- or rather the lack of colour). Otherwise, may I disagree with Frank: we Londoners are not specially educated, but we are "enlightened" in his sense. We come in all colours: I can guide you to our Arab, Punjabi, Chinese and Bengali quarters too, if you like, and in fact any quarter except the rich outer suburbs has a fine mix of Londoners. Our own parish church just south of New Cross Gate has members who had Tamil, Chinese, Nigerian, and Caribbean grandparents, and our Vicar is from Zambia (I helped to appoint him).

Please write if I can help further. Welcome to my London.

Ben Haines

Old Mar 13th, 2000, 12:19 PM
Russ Owens
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I know you only wanted information on London or Paris, but one of the earlier replies mentioned Liverpool. you must try and make a trip to Liverpool while you are over here. we have the most cosmopolitan and relaxed city on England, and many visitors compare the atmospere to New Orleans, and the nightlife in the city centre is somewhat lively in places, but does cater for every need. if you do visit, a trip to the Mersyside maritime museum, in the Albert Dock, will be of great intrest to you as it has some good information and displays about the slave trade.
As for Rascism, I am white, but I Can assure you that 99.9% of Liverpudlians treat everone the same, and you will be greeted with friendly Merseyside greetings whatever you colour. Infact I feel that it would be fair to say that you would feel more safe in Liverpool, than most other major cities. but you must enjoy your visit.
Old Mar 14th, 2000, 01:44 PM
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Hi Fran!

So glad you asked the question, b/c I've been looking for info myself. My husband and I plan to visit London, Brussels and Paris this fall. I also visted the cafedelasoul site -- no bells and whistles, but plenty of good info that I hadn't seen elsewhere. Since we visited London for the first time last year, I can tell you that we were warmly rec'd, except for 1 dreadful man at customs -- he was in a huff for God knows what, but he just seemed to be a miserable little man and not a racist one. But that was it. We can't wait to go back but would love some to visit places relating to African/African-Am./Carrib culture on our next trip.
Old Mar 15th, 2000, 03:38 PM
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Your most comprehensive answer came from Ben Haines but I wanted to add my 2 cents.

As an African-American who has traveled throughout Europe, including Paris and London, I highly recommend both places for black travelers. There is an abundance of history and culture that pertains to people of African descent in both cities.

In London I had loads of fun hanging out in Brixton. Despite a (white) taxi driver telling my friend and I not to be there at night ``unescorted'' we stayed for a full day and well into the wee hours of the morning and had a fabulous time. We had great Jamaican takeout at a place called Miss Nid's, had dessert and coffee in Brixton's only black-owned bookstore, the Souls of Black Folks and danced and drank the night away at a pub called The Effra (think `Cheers' but all black).

Parisians love Black Americans, particularly those in the arts. There is a rich tradition of black American expatriates, including Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, etc. There is an outstanding black walking tour led by historian Julia Browne. You can get all of her information on the website. FYI, the 18th district is called ``Little Africa'' because so many African immigrants live there and it is an area vibrant with African food, music and culture. There are also many good jazz restaurants in the 1st district. The Cafe de la Soul website will lead you to some good African and soul food restaurants. Finally, there is a restaurant just off the Champs-Elysse (I think it's called Chesterfield Cafe) that has an old-fashioned Gospel Brunch on Sundays.
Old Mar 16th, 2000, 10:21 AM
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Thanks for such a thoughtful question. You don't see this topic covered much on Fodor's.

Must hang-outs are Brixton and Notting Hill in London. And if you`re there on Sunday night, check out a club in Covent Garden called The Spot. There is an open mic on Sunday nights. I was so tickled by seeing black Brits trying to rap. But I was blown away by the talent of so many singing R&B.

In Paris, definitely hook up with Julia Browne. Get as many pointers as you can from the Cafe de la Soul website.

Also, on Rick Steve's website on the graffiti wall, there is a thread specifically for minority travelers. You get some pretty good fact and opinion there.
Old Mar 16th, 2000, 08:28 PM
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I think blacks have a much easier time in both Paris and London than anywhere in the US, including even New York. And a bi-racial couple--friends of mine--who live in London are never uncomfortable anywhere in Europe, but feel the stares everywhere they travel in the US.
Old Mar 16th, 2000, 08:46 PM
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Josephine Baker the cabaret entertainer was a huge star in Paris through much of the last century and there may be some sites relating to her. In Paris, by the way, if you are feel you are not accepted it might be more anti- Americanism than racism.
Old Mar 17th, 2000, 08:39 AM
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I found that there was a strange double-standard in Paris. There is a bit of an anti-African sentiment, but they definitely, wholeheartedly embrace African-Americans. Weird.
Old Mar 17th, 2000, 10:47 AM
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There's a book called "Black London: Life Before Emancipation" by Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina that might steer you toward interesting sites.
Old Mar 17th, 2000, 11:04 AM
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You might want to read COQ AU VIN by Charlotte Carter; a snappy mystery that is set in Paris and revolves around the
the history of the Black jazz scene is very entertaining as well as informative. (Her detective , Nanette Hayes, is also African-American).
Old Mar 20th, 2000, 10:43 AM
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Fran, I'm now reading Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light. It's a/b 20th century expatriates beyond Hemingway and Gertude Stein. I absolutely can't put it down.

Ben/Sabrina: if you would, do you mind e-mailing any more places to hang out in London? We'd like to hang out more -- just had time to go to 1 jazz club while there. Also, based on what I've read so far, I'd agree w/ what you said a/b the French "preference" by and large, but certainly NOT the sentiment. Odd, indeed.

Amy/Michele: I'm going to look for the books you suggest -- thanks for sharing the titles.

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