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Although he was the first African American fighter pilot, Eugene J. Bullard is still a relative stranger in his homeland. An accomplished professional boxer, musician, club manager, and impresario of Parisian nightlife between the world wars, Bullard found in Europe a degree of respect and freedom unknown to blacks in America. There, for twenty-five years, he helped define Although he was the first African American fighter pilot, Eugene J. Bullard is still a relative stranger in his homeland. An accomplished professional boxer, musician, club manager, and impresario of Parisian nightlife between the world wars, Bullard found in Europe a degree of respect and freedom unknown to blacks in America. There, for twenty-five years, he helped define the expatriate experience for countless other African American artists, writers, performers, and athletes.This is the first biography of Bullard in thirty years and the most complete ever. It follows Bullard's lifelong search for respect from his poor boyhood in Jim-Crow Georgia to his attainment of notoriety in Jazz-Age Paris and his exploits fighting for his adopted country, for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Drawing on a vast amount of archival material in the United States, Great Britain, and France, Craig Lloyd unfolds the vibrant story of an African American who sought freedom overseas. Lloyd provides a new look at the black expatriate community in Paris, taking readers into the cabarets where Bullard rubbed elbows with Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, and even the Prince of Wales. Lloyd also uses Bullard's life as a lens through which to view the racism that continued to dog him even in Europe in his encounters with traveling Americans. When Hitler conquered France, Bullard was wounded in action and then escaped to America. There, his European successes counted for little: he spent his last years in obscurity and hardship but continued to work for racial justice. Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate in Jazz-Age Paris offers a fascinating look at an extraordinary man who lived on his own terms and adds a new facet to our understanding of the black diaspora.


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Although he was the first African American fighter pilot, Eugene J. Bullard is still a relative stranger in his homeland. An accomplished professional boxer, musician, club manager, and impresario of Parisian nightlife between the world wars, Bullard found in Europe a degree of respect and freedom unknown to blacks in America. There, for twenty-five years, he helped define Although he was the first African American fighter pilot, Eugene J. Bullard is still a relative stranger in his homeland. An accomplished professional boxer, musician, club manager, and impresario of Parisian nightlife between the world wars, Bullard found in Europe a degree of respect and freedom unknown to blacks in America. There, for twenty-five years, he helped define the expatriate experience for countless other African American artists, writers, performers, and athletes.This is the first biography of Bullard in thirty years and the most complete ever. It follows Bullard's lifelong search for respect from his poor boyhood in Jim-Crow Georgia to his attainment of notoriety in Jazz-Age Paris and his exploits fighting for his adopted country, for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Drawing on a vast amount of archival material in the United States, Great Britain, and France, Craig Lloyd unfolds the vibrant story of an African American who sought freedom overseas. Lloyd provides a new look at the black expatriate community in Paris, taking readers into the cabarets where Bullard rubbed elbows with Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, and even the Prince of Wales. Lloyd also uses Bullard's life as a lens through which to view the racism that continued to dog him even in Europe in his encounters with traveling Americans. When Hitler conquered France, Bullard was wounded in action and then escaped to America. There, his European successes counted for little: he spent his last years in obscurity and hardship but continued to work for racial justice. Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate in Jazz-Age Paris offers a fascinating look at an extraordinary man who lived on his own terms and adds a new facet to our understanding of the black diaspora.

48 review for Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate in Jazz-Age Paris

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ash Gawain

    In 1912, at 17, Afro-American Eugene Bullard sneaks into as German cargo ship in Norfolk, Virginia, outbound for Scotland, as he leaves behind him a life of vagabondage and racial persecution in the segregated South. He has heard Black Americans are not persecuted in Europe and he wants to pursue his European dream. The stowaway is soon discovered by the German crew, and they befriend him. He learns some German, and off the coast of Scotland, the Captain of the ship helps him come to shore onboa In 1912, at 17, Afro-American Eugene Bullard sneaks into as German cargo ship in Norfolk, Virginia, outbound for Scotland, as he leaves behind him a life of vagabondage and racial persecution in the segregated South. He has heard Black Americans are not persecuted in Europe and he wants to pursue his European dream. The stowaway is soon discovered by the German crew, and they befriend him. He learns some German, and off the coast of Scotland, the Captain of the ship helps him come to shore onboard a rescue boat to avoid customs officials. Back then, though, undocumented migrants into Europe were much better treated than today. After doing different kinds of fair jobs, leading him to France, Bullard starts a career as a boxer in the country he intends to make his. In 1914, the Great War breaks out, and Bullard enlists in the French Foreign Legion to serve his adoptive country. Wounded at the battle of Verdun, he met a French officer who encourages him to become an air gunner. He is good enough to become a fighter pilot, and becomes the first Afro-American fighter pilot, serving in the French Air Service, though. When the US declares war on Germany, US pilots serving in the French Air Service have to be incorporated into the US Army Air Service, but they won’t accept Bullard since he is black. Not that bigotry is the sole mischief of White Americans. Some French people also know how to be racist. Unfortunately for those, Bullard is an ex-boxer who won’t hesitate to punch racist pigs, a course of action that usually ends well, since the Parisians of 1918 don’t like racists either. After the war, Bullard becomes a mechanics, play jazz, go into the entertainment business and open a restaurant. He marries and gets two children with a French woman who leaves him. Even though he has become a legend in France, his European dream in short-lived. In May 1940, the German overwhelm the French defenses. As a good French patriot, now 45-year old Bullard fights the German advance and is wounded. The Gestapo has his name on a list (he had briefly worked for the French Counter-espionage), so he is swiftly ex-filtrated to neutral Spain, before being shipped to the US, where he has to live again through the racial segregation. Craig Llyod’s book is well-written, well documented and duly referenced. I can only recommend this biography of one of the most astonishing figures of the 20th Century. If you speak French, I would also suggest you to read the eponymous book by Claude Ribbe.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dave Carroll

    We so often rely on fiction to discover larger-than-life characters that exist in a realm far above their humble origins. Every now and again we are fortunate to uncover massive beings by accidentally tripping over them in obscure historical encounters. Such was the case of Eugene Bullard, a true American hero virtually unknown in the country of his birth and death. Bullard was an unlikely character, born a poor black man in Georgia at the turn of the 20th Century in the mid-point of the Jim Cro We so often rely on fiction to discover larger-than-life characters that exist in a realm far above their humble origins. Every now and again we are fortunate to uncover massive beings by accidentally tripping over them in obscure historical encounters. Such was the case of Eugene Bullard, a true American hero virtually unknown in the country of his birth and death. Bullard was an unlikely character, born a poor black man in Georgia at the turn of the 20th Century in the mid-point of the Jim Crow South. Small in stature but big in spirit, Eugene had a quality that tapped into the kindness of people, in particular southern white families who tended to take him into their family and help him down the road to his inevitable European sojourn as a tramp steaming teen. Finding overwhelming acceptance and an expatriate community in France, Bullard had a penchant for both showmanship and sportsmanship, alternating between performer and prize fighter until called to the defense of France during the Great War, first as a French Foreign Legionnaire where his ferocity and heroism under fire propelled him into the cockpit as the first Black combat pilot of World War I. When America belatedly entered the war, he was snubbed by the nation of his birth whose backwards and racist policies and practices rejected the notion that an African-American could possess the capabilities necessary to fly in combat. But his adopted home of France embraced him wholeheartedly, honoring his service and providing entrepreneurial success between the wars. In the run up to World War II, Bullard was tapped by France to use his charm and talents to glean vital intelligence and aid the resistance movement against Nazi occupation. His bravery in two wars made him a national hero in France, but his return to America was one lived out in relative obscurity in a nation still gripped by institutional racism and fear of both foreigners and Americans agitating for progress. Were it not for a latter-day discovery by the burgeoning television medium, Bullard's story may never have been known in his birth nation. He never really got to tell his story, but historian Craig Lloyd did an admirable job uncovering the true to life heroic exploits of a mythical American figure. It is a shame that America has delegated the exploration of the historical contribution of African-Americans to a single month. On the threshold of Black History Month, Bullard's story is one which should be at the forefront of this year's discovery. It is an awe inspiring and inspirational story that is feature film ready.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    We share the same name, he died the year I was born, and lived the kind of on-his-own-terms life that I have always admired.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Well worth the read. Eugene Bullard lived an extraordinary life. Amazing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ronald A. Williams

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sandra D

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pete

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rosamarie56 Angelone

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ellis Windheim

  11. 5 out of 5

    Vida Djaghouri

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jerrynorman

    Did you tell about the whites that came to france and degraded him with how whites treated blacks and what level whites held blacks. How blacks were called " niggers", shiftless, lazy, rap white wemon, couldnt be trusted and stopped him from flying? Tell it all. Did you tell about the whites that came to france and degraded him with how whites treated blacks and what level whites held blacks. How blacks were called " niggers", shiftless, lazy, rap white wemon, couldnt be trusted and stopped him from flying? Tell it all.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fergus

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sterling Lumpkin

  18. 5 out of 5

    Edwin J. White

  19. 4 out of 5

    jane

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  22. 5 out of 5

    p.kowalski

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tom Gates

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hertz

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian Kupfer

  26. 5 out of 5

    cra

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julian

  28. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jbondandrews

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  31. 4 out of 5

    Letta Raven

  32. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Flores

  33. 4 out of 5

    Confetta

  34. 4 out of 5

    Lorraine

  35. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  36. 5 out of 5

    Nouvellepoisson

  37. 4 out of 5

    Catalina

  38. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Key

  39. 5 out of 5

    Neverdust

  40. 4 out of 5

    Becca

  41. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

  42. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

  43. 5 out of 5

    hhhhhhhhh

  44. 5 out of 5

    Hilary

  45. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

  46. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woofter

  47. 4 out of 5

    Sasha Whyte

  48. 5 out of 5

    Alexandria Hamilton

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