You may already know that Richard Wright kept a charming little farmhouse in nearby Normandy - and it's great to get proof that it's still standing. One of our tour participants followed this particular trail of Black history outside Paris and came back thrilled. After a quick half-hour train trip from
Following Wright’s footsteps then led to the artist colony where he composed his
haiku at the end of the 50s. It’s still a gorgeous bucolic retreat built around an 11th century mill. Goats roam the grounds, a serene river flows nearby… what more could the writers, artists and musicians who spend a week or a month here need to create? Not much, if you read the haiku that blossomed from Wright’s imagination, penned in his own little room at the end a row of cottages.
The owner, Ms. Lipinska, is a lovely woman – the same one who had originally invited Wright to make this his home away from home. And the same who graciously hosted the Mississippi TV crew I was part of back in '94 when Madison Lacy was filming Black Boy. Over a fine dinner of homemade lasagna, Ms. Lipinska enchanted our travelers with more memories of Richard Wright and the impressive list of artists who have taken up residency there. She even showed the letter Wright had written her after his stay.
It’s not much of a stretch to imagine Wright relaxed and flexing his creative muscles in this retreat far from the maddening throngs of
(Thanks Angela for your story!)
It was hot, hot, hot in Black Montmartre
Alberta Hunter & Florence Mills
Imagine it’s around 1925. You stumble out for your morning paper and saxophonist/clarinetist Sidney Bechet ambles by, on his way home from playing at Bricktop’s legendary club. Or, after a work-out session at the gym run by Foreign Legion aviator Eugene Bullard, you down a quick and copious meal made cheaper by the mighty American dollar. As night falls, you put on your duds and head out to make the rounds of the many clubs where fellow African-Americans rake in more money than French musicians.
Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson
Had you been there, you’d have crossed the path of a young Langston Hughes working on his jazz poetry, or reserved a table at Josephine B’s chic but not cheap Chez Josephine restaurant. You might have had your suits made by R.D. Miller, a brother’s shop just down the street from the Moulin Rouge.
Of course by now you want to know and see more, right? Set your DVD recorders or VCRs for August 26th : PBS will be broadcasting the much-anticipated documentary ‘Harlem in Montmartre’. The film covers jazz in
The documentary is the fine work of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Dante James (series producer of Slavery and the Making of America). You can read Kam Williams’ interview with him here.