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This is where your stories will be shown. Send us an email and tell us about how you and/or your family have been part of the historical relationship between African Americans and the French. Whether your great grandfather fought in World War I, your grandmother sang with Sydney Bechet, your grandfather fought in World War II, your aunt studied art, your uncle opened a soul food restaurant, your mother attended African diaspora conferences in Paris, we want to know. These stories need to be preserved - this website’s primary goal is to serve as a popular history ledger.

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Howard Tuck, an African American soldier in France

as told by Barbara “Aisha” Johnson, his daughter.

My father Howard Tuck would often talk about the war. He was in France and in Germany during WWII. There was a lot of hardship, the countryside, all bombed out, was desolate. Combat was hard and stressing, but they got breaks in between. African American bands would come to France to entertain the troops. The French loved jazz. They would come to some of the shows. And if the French could play, they would join in. There was dancing. No one lifted an eyebrow if an African American soldier danced with a French woman. While there was discrimination in France at that time, the racism was nowhere near what we experienced here. The Negroes were received as human beings, as individuals.

The African Americans taught the French the latest steps: Number One, Lindy Hop, and Swing of course. The French would also ask: What is it about an A-train in that song? And the African Americans would explain: that’s a train that goes uptown. And the French would ask: What’s uptown? That’s where you listen and you dance to jazz! So the French were learning from the African Americans.

On the other hand, African Americans liked the sharp way the French dressed. They started to knot a silk scarf around their neck the way the French did, to wear tweed blazers, and the beret of course! They brought that fashion back to Harlem. It became a trade mark for African Americans who wanted to show they were smart and educated.

My father had a hard time coming back to the US. He would have liked to stay in France. But I was born during those years, and I was in Harlem! Throughout his life he talked about France. And also Germany. If we weren’t happy about something, he would say “C’est la vie!” and he would make a gesture with his hands just like the French do. He brought back quite a few hand gestures which are typically French. Of France he would say: the food was good, the wine was good (he learned to drink his wine medium dry, as the French do), the beer was good. And the women were sweeeeet!