Little care is often taken with American culture by Americans—or anyone else for that matter—but as an American Studies major, I find American culture essential to understanding those who come to the United States, the United States’ place in the world, and the changes that take place routinely within the country itself. However, there are facets of American culture which are or have been very influential and yet are either rarely studied, or rarely given credence to as a significant part of a whole. African-American culture is one such part which has altered the United States in astounding ways and yet is rarely given credit within American culture as a whole.
In 2011 I took an American Novels course which gave me a taste for black-American literature, which resonated with me further than the other American literature. In this class I realized I was beginning to love a culture that was not only in part being lost, but was not being recognized as playing a larger role within main-stream American culture. The fact that we need an African-American Studies field to augment American Studies is understandable but disappointing to me—American Studies itself should indicate in its every study the presence of black Americans, Latino Americans, Chinese Americans . . . the list could go on. Separating the races is not a true study of American culture, because America is what it is because of the collision and/or melding of the races.
In 2010 I began studying French, and soon decided I wanted to go to France before I began a Graduate degree. I wasn’t interested in being with a group of other Americans, since I wanted to be able to practice my language-speaking, but I would have gone any way I could have when I discovered Field Studies and realized it allowed me the opportunity to study my French, but more importantly, meld that interest with my study of American culture. I fell upon an idea and decided I wanted to study something no one had talked about in my history courses or American Study classes: the African-American expatriates in Paris and how their presence in Paris can or has influenced our understanding of American culture.
I want to live in France for three months so I might be immersed in French culture, much like these American expatriates were, and so I might better understand what elements of French culture made Paris appealing for these Americans. I do not feel I can understand the black American-Parisian culture until I understand the elements of French culture that brought musicians, writers, painters, and intellectuals out to Paris after the Great War.
The men and women who I am interested in studying have been written about before, which is why my anticipated results are not a series of autobiographical sketches, so much as a creative linking of these cultures through the people to better understand African-American-Parisian influence on American culture at the time and it’s holdover in contemporary American culture. I am not interested in new information but rather a new outlook, one that is particularly of the American Studies field and of an American Studies telling.