Cover image for Eugene Bullard, Black expatriate in jazz-age Paris
Eugene Bullard, Black expatriate in jazz-age Paris
Lloyd, Craig, 1940-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Athens : University of Georgia Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 217 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL540.B7492 L96 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Although he was the first African American fighter pilot, Eugene J. Bullard is still a relative stranger in his homeland. An accomplished professional boxer, musician, club manager, and impresario of Parisian nightlife between the world wars, Bullard found in Europe a degree of respect and freedom unknown to blacks in America. There, for twenty-five years, he helped define the expatriate experience for countless other African American artists, writers, performers, and athletes.

This is the first biography of Bullard in thirty years and the most complete ever. It follows Bullard's lifelong search for respect from his poor boyhood in Jim-Crow Georgia to his attainment of notoriety in Jazz-Age Paris and his exploits fighting for his adopted country, for which he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Drawing on a vast amount of archival material in the United States, Great Britain, and France, Craig Lloyd unfolds the vibrant story of an African American who sought freedom overseas. Lloyd provides a new look at the black expatriate community in Paris, taking readers into the cabarets where Bullard rubbed elbows with Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, and even the Prince of Wales. Lloyd also uses Bullard's life as a lens through which to view the racism that continued to dog him even in Europe in his encounters with traveling Americans.

When Hitler conquered France, Bullard was wounded in action and then escaped to America. There, his European successes counted for little: he spent his last years in obscurity and hardship but continued to work for racial justice. Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate in Jazz-Age Paris offers a fascinating look at an extraordinary man who lived on his own terms and adds a new facet to our understanding of the black diaspora.

Author Notes

Craig Lloyd is a professor emeritus of history and former Director of Archives at Columbus State University.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Lloyd, a history professor, takes the life of an exceptional individual and explores his universe, one with which we are generally familiar as Americans, from an unusual perspective. At the end of the nineteenth century, Bullard escaped the Jim Crow practices of his native Georgia and stowed away in a ship bound for Germany. He reinvented himself in Europe, becoming a prize fighter, dance-troupe entertainer, and jazz band drummer as he traveled between Berlin, Paris, and Moscow. He settled in France, adopting its culture and fighting on its behalf in World War I, even earning citizenship with his heroism as a fighter pilot. But the presence and prejudice of white American soldiers when the U.S. entered the war provided Bullard with painful reminders of the racism he left behind him. Still, Bullard prevailed, becoming a popular Jazz Age entertainer and working for the French Resistance during World War II. Though he died in relative obscurity in the U.S., Bullard is celebrated among the French, who accepted him as one of their own. --Vernon Ford

Library Journal Review

Lloyd (history, Columbus State Univ.) explores the extraordinary life of Eugene Bullard (1895-1961), the first black wartime aviator and celebrated prize fighter, musician, and decorated member of the French foreign legion and the French airforce in World War I. Beginning with his birth in Georgia, the author charts Bullard's boyhood, his flight from home, and his emigration to Scotland and then to Paris as a stowaway in 1912. There, in the city's tolerant racial climate, Bullard soaked up the cabaret scene and mingled with jazz stars Sidney Bechet and Josephine Baker. Lloyd continues with Bullard's role in the French fight against Nazism during World War II and his flight to New York in 1940, where he battled racism until his death and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Providing excellent background material, especially about Paris after World War I, Lloyd adds substantially to Bullard's unpublished memoirs and the thinly researched first biography of Bullard by P.J. Carisella and James W. Ryan, The Black Swallow of Death (1972. o.p.). He provides a solid monograph for scholars that will serve as the definitive biography of a remarkable man in search of freedom.DDave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Bullard's greatest claim on history is ultimately his success as the first African American combat pilot, but that is only part of his story. An expatriate living in Paris from 1912 until WW II, Bullard fought with the French Foreign Legion in WW I and became a French citizen and national hero. He was also a successful boxer, a passable jazz drummer and entertainer, a popular owner of nightclubs and a gym, and something of a facilitator for African Americans such as Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, and Louis Armstrong, who were discovering Paris between the world wars. Bullard fought again for France in WW II, and though exposed to oppressive racial discrimination when the Americans arrived in France and on his return to the US, he suffered no bitterness. Like P.J. Carsella and James W. Ryan, authors of the hard-to-find biography The Black Swallow of Death (1972), Lloyd (Columbus State Univ.) began with Bullard's unpublished memoirs and is generous about previous unquestioned acceptance of Bullard's accounting. Lloyd's impressive research supports, contradicts, and expands Bullard's recollections, and extensive chapter notes document his narrative. Providing excellent insights into US racism and its failure to take root in France, this book and its subject deserve a wide audience. All collections. C. M. Weisenberg; University of California, Los Angeles