At 10 AM meet outside L’église de la Madeleine.

In the afternoon you will visit one of these famous Paris houses of entertainment. How does physically visiting the site change your understanding of their social importance? Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Folies Bergère, Casino de Paris, L’Église de la Madeleine, Château des Milandes, Café La Coupole, and Olympia.

Meet 4:40 PM for a free performance by Etienne Alsamia at the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Jazz Festival.


  • Finish reading Catel & Bocquet, Josephine Baker (2017)
  • Class Set List Below (Shuffle AlongAll Coons Look Alike To Me, Josephine Baker’s Solo Hits, Julia Perry’s compositions, etc.)
  • *McMahan, Matthew. “‘Let Me See You Dance’: Ada ‘Bricktop’ Smith, the Charleston, and Racial Commodification in Interwar France.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 29, no. 2 (2015): 43-61.

Josephine Baker’s FBI Files 

Set List 

Class Exercise: Analyzing Josephine Baker in Graphic Novel Form

As you look at the illustrations and read the texts in Josephine Baker, consider the following:

  • Where do the artists place the reader? Are you with Josephine, or looking at her, as if she were still on stage? Are you removed or intimate from the scenes?
  • Is the audience privy to Baker’s inner thoughts and life stories through the illustrations?
  • How is the narrative arranged? Describe the panels – how many are there per page, how do they aid or disrupt the pace of the story?
  • How do the artists create conversational scenes versus performances?
  • How does the use of black and white change how you read or understand the story? Why is there no color for someone who lived such a vibrant life?
  • Compare the architectures (the theaters and bars) of the graphic novel to the theaters you are visiting today. How does the experience of being there differ from experiencing the theaters through the graphic novel?
  • Compare your experience of Baker’s performances through the graphic novel against the video you watched to prepare for class. Does the graphic novel capture the movements, costuming, and scenery in a way that conveys the same sense of history? Why or why not? If not, how might the illustrator and writer have been more effective at conveying Baker’s performances/life?

Thinking about history, narrative, and Josephine

  • What is the relationship between St. Louis and France?
  • What is Josephine’s family lineage?
  • What riot does she witness? What role did it play in her life?
  • What did Josephine do in Shuffle Along?
  • How would you compare Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, and Brick Top’s experiences in Paris as women who performed and were socially engaged?
  • Why does the illustrator break up movements in the story with illustrations of stand-alone buildings? What does that achieve in the storytelling?
  • How is race represented visually? Is it caricatured? Respectful? Historically accurate?
  • Do you think it’s wise to create fictional dialogue about a historical figure to fill in the narrative gaps we don’t know? Dangerous? How can we tell stories without all of the facts, even for lives that are very well documented?
  • How is Paris visually represented in the illustrations? How is it different from St. Louis or New York? What motifs or visual arguments are being made?
  • Why was Josephine popular in Paris and Berlin? What choreography did she innovate?
  • What did Josephine do during the Great Depression and World War II? During the Civil Rights Movement?
  • What was Josephine’s mission later in life?
  • What was unique about Josephine’s funeral?

Blog Post Assignment 

Using the #CharlestonSyllabus as inspiration ( we will collectively build a #HarlemParisRenSyllabus. Each student is required to contribute a minimum of 10 primary sources and 5 secondary sources to the syllabus. We will first collectively build it on Google Docs and then migrate it to this website when it is finished. Sub-sections might include overviews, historiography, literature, poetry, visual sources, music, multimedia, New Negroes, websites, and children’s literature. I encourage you to use social media to get suggestions and contributions from the larger historical community.

Rhae Lynn Barnes is an Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton University (2018-) and President of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. She is the co-founder and C.E.O. of U.S. History Scene and an Executive Advisor to the documentary series "Reconstruction: America After the Civil War" (now streaming PBS, 2019).

Leave a Reply