France has long been considered one of the most romantic and enticing places to visit and live, particularly for African Americans. There has been a long history of African Americans moving to France, and particularly Paris to escape persecution and be seen simply as a person, and not as a Black object. African American artists and writers, in particular, have flocked to Paris as a safe haven to explore their art and escape from segregation. I will briefly describe Richard Wright and James Baldwin’s experiences with France before focusing on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s description of his experience in Between the World and Me.
Both Richard Wright and James Baldwin refused to accept the standards under which African-Americans were subjected and their writing represents this frustration. They both also fled to France to escape the situation in America. Wright’s well-known love of France is displayed in a brief monologue called his “Love Letter to Paris.” He briefly explains how French culture has created a safe haven for African Americans. “There is no race tension or conflict. Men are not prejudged here on the basis of their skin color and nationality and I have never heard a Frenchman tell anybody to ‘go back where you came from….’ Yes, here in Paris, even men are looked upon as works of art, not as things to be feared and pushed around.”  Clearly, Wright found a safe have and new battleground for race issues in Paris, but Baldwin did not share Wright’s romanticized view of the city; he went to France out of necessity. In a 1978 interview for the Paris Review, he explains, saying “It wasn’t so much a matter of choosing France—it was a matter of getting out of America. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me in France but I knew what was going to happen to me in New York.”  Baldwin went to France to escape racism, but “upon arriving in France, [Baldwin] had no illusions that Paris was among the ‘most civilized of cities,’ nor did he consider the French among the ‘least primitive of peoples.’”  They differed on the correct portrayal of Paris, but both agree that it saved them and allowed them to continue the fight through their writing in their separate ways.
In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates delves into issues of black identity in America through a letter to his son, detailing the struggles and tribulations he has seen and how they are still being seen today. He briefly describes his trip to France, the “safe haven.” He struggles with the different identity he is allowed to take on despite his instincts that have been necessary to survival throughout his life.
“In America I was part of an equation—even if it wasn’t a part I relished…. For the first time I was an alien, I was a sailor—landless and disconnected. And I was sorry that I had never felt this particular loneliness before—that I had never felt myself so far outside of someone else’s dream. Now I felt the deeper weight of my generational chains—my body confined, by history and policy, to certain zones.” 
He struggles with the need to break himself and his son of these old chains, but at the same time knows that these chains were there for good reason, that the fear was necessary. Although France is different and provides a freedom, Coates soon realizes that it has its own chains, its own history of oppression and cautions his son against this.
“We will always be black, you and I, even if it means different things in different places. France is built on its own dream, on its collection of bodies… its national project of theft by colonization…. We were not enslaved in France. We are not their particular ‘problem,’ nor their national guilt. We are not their niggers. If there is any comfort in this, it is not the kind that I would encourage you to indulge…. Remember that you and I are brothers, are the children of trans-Atlantic rape. Remember the broader consciousness can never ultimately be racial; it must be cosmic.” 
France may not treat blacks the way America does, but the history is still there and affects people and their identities today, which needs to be remembered. Coates’s final thoughts on France bring the problem very much to the present with the reminder of Trayvon Martin. “I realized that I accepted that there is no velocity of escape. Home would find us in any language.”  Racism was and is still present in France, although not in the same intensity as it is in America.
France has long been sought out as a safe haven against American racism, and for good reason, but even if it is better, it is not a perfect safe haven. The French still have their own history and their own forms of racism, even today. These three African-American writers all experienced France’s safe haven for and at different periods of time and had different, and yet similar experiences.
 Quarles, Philip, “Richard Wright’s Love Letter to Paris,” WNYC, January 28, 2013, originally published in “Annotations: The NEH Preservation Project,” accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.wnyc.org/story/192767-richard-wright/
 Elgrably, Jordan, “James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction No. 78,” The Paris Review, Spring 1984 No. 91, accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2994/the-art-of-fiction-no-78-james-baldwin
 Washington, Ellery, “James Baldwin’s Paris.” The New York Times, January 17, 2014, accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/travel/james-baldwins-paris.html?_r=0
 Coates, Ta-Nehisi, Between the World and Me, (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015), 124-125.
 Ibid. 127-128.
 Ibid. 129.