Chateau Rouge/ Goutte d’Or, Paris

It is the banlieues or suburbs of French cities that are usually associated with migration, racism and resistance, but central locales such as Chateau Rouge and La Goutte d’Or—known as quartiers populaires (a French term that echoes that of the inner city)—are also important, if less studied sites. For example, in 1996—in what became an international news story—the Church of Saint-Bernard in Goutte d’Or provided refuge to 200 sans-papier migrants from Mali; who, after two months, were forcibly removed by police and deported from France.

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The history of this neighbourhood reveals how African Americans settled in nearby Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement of Paris during the 1920s. During World War I, the French government employed over half a million immigrant workers for its industries, mainly from French colonies in North Africa. Many, along with their families, settled in the adjacent La Goutte d’Or and Chateau Rouge neighbourhoods. Successive waves of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa have since settled in the area, now popularly known as ‘Little Africa’. The district is now a commercial hub frequented by many West African and Congolese Parisians, many of whom travel into the centre of the city from homes in the banlieues for work, shopping, socialising and leisure.

(Right, mural outside Miaouw Barbes Studio, Rue Myrha, photo by AIC)

The Chateau Rouge/ Goutte d’Or area of the 18the is now experiencing some gentrification. In 2003, then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy sought to ‘cleanse’ the district of its African character. Indeed, as Éric Hazan has explained in The Invention of Paris, the slow incursion of ‘bobos’ (bohemian bourgeois intellectuals such as journalists, designers etc.) started during this period but, he also reports, the Congolese and Senegalese are ‘holding their own, and even gaining ground here and there’. The heritage ‘industry’ in the area is embryonic, with Chateau Rouge/ Goutte d’Or beginning to appear on itineraries in tourist guide books and as the focus for specialist Black History walking tours.

(Left, Echomusée mural depicting Marianne, female personification of the French Republic, Rue Erckmann-Chatrian, photo by AIC).