Many Americans were attracted to Paris in the 1920s. For African Americans, Paris offered many more freedoms than did the United States. France was not segregated like the US nor did they have hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan who lynched African Americans on a regular basis.
A group of writers that became known as The Lost Generation found inspiration on the Left Bank. The US was in its era of Prohibition, but there was nothing illegal about alcohol in Paris. Prohibition brought much violence and organized crime to the US. Real estate was relatively inexpensive in Paris at the time, and it has always had the reputation of being trendy and fashion forward. Life in Paris was relaxed, so there, they could lead the life of a bohemian.
When WWII started, many Americans fled for safety. However, 2,000 American expatriates chose to stay. To learn more about what happened next, check out the book Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation by Charles Glass.
Sylvia Beach was the remarkable woman who opened a bookshop in Paris that is now known the world over - Shakespeare and Company. She had a harrowing experience as an American in Paris during WWII. To learn more, watch the video below, or visit Sylvia Beach: An American in Paris.
An interview with Sylvia Beach from the documentary Paris Was A Woman
Josephine Baker was an African-American woman who found fame as a singer and dancer at the Folies Bergere. During WWII, Josephine became an Allied spy. She used her fame and status to gather information from Nazis and passed it along to the Allies. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre for her service.
Josephine Baker dances her famous "Banana Dance"