Thursday, October 25, 2012

Angela Davis in Paris

Angela Davis first came to Paris in 1962 during the summer prior to her sophomore year at Brandeis University. She and a friend sublet a chambre de bonne (maid's quarters) on the top floor of a building that she describes as being so close to the Eiffel Tower that "you could see the elevator rising and falling" from the tiny window of the room. On July 5th of that year, she was present at a demonstration held at Place de la Sorbonne in celebration of Algeria’s newly-won independence. She reported that the French police broke up the gathering with high power water hoses, saying that "they were as vicious as the redneck cops in Birmingham who met the Freedom Riders with their dogs and hoses."

Angela Davis during her junior year at Brandeis in the 1960s
Image from

For her junior year abroad in 1963-64, Davis returned to Paris and lived with a family in a building in the 16th arrondissement, very near the Arc de Triomphe. Her program was organized by Hamilton College and housed at Reid Hall, but she took classes at the Sorbonne because of her advanced level of French. In her autobiography, she remarks that she always felt as though she was in church when she was at the Sorbonne. She frequented the Théâtre de la Huchette on rue de la Huchette as part of her theater course - the only one that was organized by Hamilton.

Years later, after her prison ordeal, Davis returned to Paris. On May 16, 1975, Bernard Pivot interviewed her, Gaston Monnerville, and two other writers for his televised literary talk show, Apostrophes. (The French translation of Davis' autobiography had recently been published and Monnerville's biography had just been published as well.)

Angela Davis and Bernard Pivot on Apostrophes
Screenshot from video

Angela Davis on Apostrophes
Screenshot from video

Davis and Monnerville held opposite views on racism, which they discussed on camera before a studio audience. Click here to view the first seven minutes of the broadcast (in French).

Gaston Monnerville on Apostrophes
Screenshot from video

The encounter is described in Alice Kaplan's book Dreaming in French. Kaplan says that as Monnerville "talked about the universal values of the French Republic, Angela Davis looked at him with an absolute interest and curiosity, with respect."


Entrée to Black Paris!™ is a Discover Paris! blog.

If you liked this article, share it with your friends and colleagues by clicking on one or more of the social media buttons below!

No comments: