Great Performances: Harlem in Montmartre

Wed, 08/26/2009 - 8:00pm - 9:00pm

Pictured: Django Reinhardt and his Nouveau Quintet.

Credit: Duncan Schiedt

After WWI, many black Americans remained in Europe rather than return to the brutal segregation and racism of America. Over the next two decades, they created an expatriate community of musicians, entertainers and entrepreneurs, primarily congregating in Paris’ hilly Montmartre neighborhood. Great Performances: Harlem in Montmartre, airing Wednesday, August 26 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable 1011/cable 11), tells the story of the jazz age in Paris between the First and Second World Wars, exploring a fascinating yet often neglected era in African-American cultural history.
After peace was signed at Versailles, many black Americans remained in Europe rather than return to the brutal segregation and racism of America. Over the next two decades, they created an expatriate community of musicians, entertainers and entrepreneurs, primarily congregating in Paris’ hilly Montmartre neighbor-hood. Some achieved enduring fame, while others faded into history. Inspired by William A. Shack’s book and using rare archival material from both France and America, this remarkable documentary features archival footage of such key figures as James Reese Europe, Josephine Baker, Sidney Bechet, Bricktop, Eugene Bullard, Django Reinhardt and many more.