Course Syllabus


African American Expats in Copenhagen and Paris

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Semester & Location:

Summer Session 2 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Study Tours:


Major Disciplines:

History, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies



Faculty Members:

Ethelene Whitmire

(current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Contact:

Sanne Rasmussen 

Time & Place:

Monday-Friday, 10-1 (with a short break), Fi44-Kosmo 403

Course Description

This course examines the experiences of African American expatriates in Copenhagen and in Paris. While many are familiar with the stories of James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, and Richard Wright in Paris, few know about the experiences of African Americans in Copenhagen. Drawing on a rich archive that includes documentaries, novels, government records, memoirs, biographies, music, letters, interviews, paintings, and newspaper accounts, we follow in the footsteps of African Americans including Booker T. Washington and Billie Holiday among many others. The course examines unknown or forgotten, yet fascinating, educators, painters, social workers, writers, one baseball player (but a very important one), singers, diplomats, dancers, servicemen, and Black Panthers who lived, studied, performed in, and visited Denmark while comparing the experiences of African American expatriates in Paris.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about Danish history and culture in the 20th and 21st centuries as it relates to African American history.
  • Experience 21st century Danish culture through Nordic cuisine and the hygge lifestyle that has become an international obsession.
  • Deepen your understanding about why Denmark regularly tops the World Happiness Index as one of the happiest countries in the world.
  • Learn about French history and culture as it relates to Black citizens and African Americans


Ethelene Whitmire is the Chair and a Professor in the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Whitmire was a Fulbright Scholar and a Visiting Professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Transnational American Studies in 2016-2017. She has received additional fellowships from the American-Scandinavian Foundation and the Lois Roth Endowment. Her current book projects are: The Remarkable Life of Reed Peggram (Viking) and Searching for Utopia: African Americans in 20th Century Denmark. She is the author of the award-winning book Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian (University of Illinois Press, 2014). Her writing has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, Narratively, and Longreads.


Roy De Coverley, “Beauty, Beer and Beechwoods” Challenge, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp. 38-43, May 1935.

The Gay Black American Who Stared Down Nazis in the Name of Love

Langston Hughes, Parisian excerpts from The Big Sea

James Baldwin, “Equal in Paris” essay

  • Malone, Leonard W. "The Negro in Europe. Part 1." Pittsburgh Courier (1955-1966), City Edition ed.: 2. Feb 10 1962.

  • Malone, Leonard W. "The Negro in Europe. Part 2" Pittsburgh Courier (1955-1966), City Edition ed.: 1. Feb 17 1962.
  • Malone, Leonard W. “The Negro Reports from Denmark.” The Crisis August-September
    1961, 451-454.


Field Studies

  • Learn about French history and culture as it relates to Black citizens and African Americans who lived, studied, performed, and visited Paris

Guest Lecturers

To be determined

Approach to Teaching

I like to combine lecture and discussion. We will have texts to read but I also show related videos in class.

Expectations of the Students

Your experience with the course will be enriched if you complete the readings before class and come to class prepared to discuss the content of the readings.


The assignments ask you to reflect on the readings, videos, tours, and your experiences in Copenhagen and Paris.



Letter Grade Percentage
A 93 to 100%
A- 90 to less than 93%
B+ 87 to less than 90%
B 83 to less than 87%
B- 80 to less than 83%
C+ 77 to less than 80%
C 73 to less than 77%
C- 70 to less than 73%
D+ 67 to less than 70%
D 63 to less than 67%
D- 60 to less than 63%
F 0 to less than 60%





Assignment #1 First Impressions (Due Friday June 17th before class)

Considering the readings and multimedia

  1. Describe at least one thing that has surprised you about Danish life or culture since arriving in Copenhagen.
  2. Think about why it surprised you. Did it challenge or disprove some of your own cultural expectations or assumptions?
  3. Has anything you’ve seen or experienced in Denmark so far made you think differently about your life—or life in general—in the U.S.?



Assignment #2 A Letter from Paris or several poems, a short story, or an essay (Due Monday June 27th)


Using the examples from African American expatriates as examples, write a letter, poems, a short story, or an essay that captures your experience in Paris.



Assignment #3 Final Impressions and Reflections (Due Friday July 1st before class)


  1. Reread your first essay about your first impressions. How would you edit or expand them now? In addition to revising your initial thoughts, ask yourself, if someone were to take these essays as a full account of your time in Copenhagen and other cities in Denmark, what would they be missing? What would you add to your entries to help someone understand Denmark and your experiences here? Compare your experiences in Copenhagen with your experiences in Paris—how were they different or similar? Compare what you learned about the experiences of African Americans in both cities. What similarities and differences did you notice? Include information about our readings, films, fieldtrips, the study tour, and experiences outside of the classroom while on your own.


Class participation – This grade is combination of attendance and participation. A passing grade requires that a student contribute nearly every day and that their comments demonstrate a comprehension of the course materials. The highest marks will go to students whose comments demonstrate insight and engagement with the course materials and whose comments stimulate discussion from the class as a whole. You are required to attend every class and every fieldtrip unless there is a documented emergency. (25%)

Academic Regulations

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due