New Africana Studies Course Takes Students to Paris, France!

May 9th, 2013


AFAS 421 Topics in Africana Studies: African Americans in Paris
Fall 2013, TR 2-3:15pm, Dr. Bryan Carter

This course is approved for the Africana Studies major and minor, and English, Creative Writing, French, and Global Studies majors. 

African American expatriates in Paris were present before the turn of the 20th Century, going there for a variety of reasons: Racism in the States, opportunities abroad and the ability to be oneself without the stigma of race attached to that identity were among those reasons.

1900. A year to celebrate at the Universal Exposition of Paris. 50 million visitors came to the banks of the Seine to marvel at the achievements of the outgoing century and have a preview of the new. All the great nations of the world leapt at the chance to show off their greatness at the elephantine extravaganza.

Also leaping at this opportunity was one of the most important figures in African American history, W.E.B. Du Bois, then a sociologist at Atlanta University. A brilliant scholar – the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard – DuBois had also studied in Europe and traveled extensively on the Old Continent– Paris included. So he was the natural choice to create an exhibit of African American life for the 1900 Exposition. With meager funding from the US government, DuBois and his team in Georgia created an exhibit and brought it to Paris. But when they got here the official United States pavilion offered them no space. So they went down the river to a more modest venue and installed it there. The “Exhibit of the American Negro” became a hit with the fair-goers!

What made it work was its pioneering use of photography – and the freshness of the story it had to tell. In hundreds of photos, it revealed a side of Black American life few people were aware of. This was the world of urbanized, educated African Americans in the South … only 35 years after the abolition of slavery. The idea of the exhibition was to show progress, was to show the development of African Americans as a nation within a nation after Emancipation, after Reconstruction, the failure of Reconstruction … It does what DuBois does so well, he thinks of this a nation within a nation, but also a nation among many nations. They have a specific coherent culture … They were also an example of modernity. They were what was possible!

This course explores the fascinating history of African Americans in Paris from artists and musicians to writers, entrepreneurs and statesmen; when African Americans came to Paris, life for them at home and abroad changed forever.  

In addition to our study of Black Expatriates in Paris, we will also participate in a very exciting project involving Augmented Reality in collaboration with a black tour company in Paris, Walking the Spirit Tours. This project involves "augmenting" the tour route with audio, video and pictorial information related to that which is along the route, thus enhancing the overall tour. During the Thanksgiving break, students who are able are invited to accompany Dr. Carter to Paris to implement, geotag and test the audio and video  "augments".

Those students who make the trip to Paris will earn an additional 1 Africana Studies credit in addition to the 3 credits for the course. Those in the Honors College may apply to earn an additional 3 credits as an Honor's Project.

AFAS 499 Independent Study: Walking the Spirit Augmentation
Fall 2013 - 
Dr. Bryan Carter

This one credit course offers students the unique opportunity to travel to Paris, France for one week during the Thanksgiving Break to work on and implement an Augmented Reality Project with an African American tour company, Walking the Spirit Tours.

Augmented Reality is a technology which enables users to augment the real world with additional information. For instance, when looking through the viewfinder of a mobile device, supplemental information such as short video clips, images, audio or interactive elements are overlaid on top of the real-world view. This additional information provides the user with more information about that which he or she is viewing.

Our project will augment 10 important points of interest along the tour route as directed by the owner of Walking the Spirit Tours. During the early part of the Fall Term, students signing up for this course will meet with Dr. Carter to learn about these points of interest and begin planning what types of augments would be most appropriate on which to begin working. During the trip to Paris, those augments will be implemented through geo-tagging or attaching them to specific locations along the route so that they can only be viewed at those designated locations.

Students will also create a Blog/Video based journal to document their daily and overall experiences while in the City of Light. Students should have a Smart Mobile Device of some sort, smart phone or Tablet, with WiFi capability. Students are also encouraged to bring their laptop computers along with them for the trip to Paris. There will be approximately 4 meetings with students enrolled in this class prior to departing for France. Dates and times will be announced.