Spotlight on France

Podcast: Covid on the slopes, why France has no Black History Month

Audio 27:58
Spotlight on France episode 49
Spotlight on France episode 49 © RFI

With ski lifts shuttered because of Covid, French ski resorts are taking a hit, along with the tens of thousands of seasonal workers they employ. A conversation about race in France and why a US-style Black History Month is needed, but difficult to put in place. And the story of Etienne Marcel, leader of the first French Revolution in the Middle Ages.


France's ski industry is a big economic driver, providing the main source of income for some villages in the Alps and Pyrenees. But Covid has dealt them a severe blow. The government has ordered ski lifts to remain closed throughout the February school holidays when many people would usually head to the mountains. A visit to the upmarket Courchevel ski resort in Savoie, used to hosting a majority of skiers from abroad, shows the impact on local businesses and seasonal workers. (Listen @1'15'')

February is Black history month in the US; the UK marks it in October. But celebrations of Black history have struggled to gain traction in France, despite its long history with Africa and the African diaspora. Maboula Soumahoro, a professor at the University of Tours, organised a French celebration of black history for several years. Author of a recent book, The Triangle and the Hexagon, a reflection on black identity, she talks about France’s problems in addressing race, and US influence both on France and her own personal history grappling with these issues. (Listen @14'50'')

Etienne Marcel tried to take control of the French monarchy on 22 February 1358. He resorted to force after he failed to impose legal reforms. He died a traitor but today he is seen as a hero who resisted the monarchy. (Listen @9'35'')

This episode was mixed by Yann Bourdelas.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Google podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here), or your favourite podcast app.

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