From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean: Fréjus and Marseilles as alternative capitals of Black France?

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[More recently, however, pioneering work, most notably by French historians associated with the ACHAC collective, as well as by cultural and literary scholars, not least Lydie Moudileno and Kate Marsh,2 has slowly begun to shift the critical focus towards what is often termed the ‘postcolonial provinces’: although Black Paris may have played a pivotal role in the development of what we might term a Black French Atlantic, there were, in fact, significant black populations in many French port cities, including Le Havre, Bordeaux and Marseilles. This essay will focus on the latter city as well as, perhaps more surprisingly for some readers, its near neighbour, the small Mediterranean town of Fréjus. If Marseilles, as a major Mediterranean port, is already well known as an ‘immigrant’ city, long host to populations from North and sub-Saharan Africa (and further afield), the role of Fréjus in the history of Black France is somewhat obscured. This small seaside town might, however, lay claim to having served as the true capital of Black France in the first half of the twentieth century, for it was there, during the First World War, that the French Army created a major military base for its black African troops, the tirailleurs sénégalais (a base that remained in service until the 1960s).]
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLieux de mémoire et océan
Subtitle of host publicationgéographie littéraire de la mémoire transatlantique aux XXe et XXIe siècles
EditorsYves Clavaron, Odile Gannier
Place of PublicationParis
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2022


  • Le Havre
  • Bordeaux
  • Marseilles
  • Black Paris
  • France


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