By Velerie Mercer
"Explorations in the City of Light: African-American Artists in Paris, 1945- 1965"
Studio Museum in Harlem Catalogue, 1996

Following world war II, hundreds of African-American artists went to Paris to learn firsthand about modernism, to escape discrimination, and to experience the romantic myth of the bohemian life of Paris.... The first wave of African-American artists in Paris during the immediate postwar years was mainly comprised of ex-GIs. The Service mans' Readjustment Act, commonly known as the G. I. Bill, had made it possible to complete their higher education in America, then travel aboard ....


Because the barriers that separated the black and white races at home were less operative abroad,  African-American artists worked alongside European-American artists who were also studying in Paris during these years. Eventually, their art was exhibited in French museums and galleries, as well as the the American cooperative Gallerie Huit. They also received critical attention from the Paris art community. Having access to the masters of modernism and exposure to new ideas and artistic styles influenced by the art of Africa and nontraditional sources, African-American artists thrived in the stimulating environment of Paris.