Au Nègre Joyeux: a controversial signage in Paris

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Au Nègre Joyeux (At the Joyous Negro’s) refers to a former chocolate factory that was established in 1748 at 14, rue Mouffetard (5th arrondissement of Paris), on the Place de la Contrescarpe. 


“Au Nègre Joyeux”: a chocolate factory from the 18th century

Au Nègre Joyeux Paris Mouffetard

Zoom on the painting, a victim from paint attacks!  © French Moments

The chocolate factory « Au Nègre Joyeux », one of France’s oldest, has long since gone. The painting of the storefront and the wide lettering are visible above a supermarket. The picture, protected by a Plexiglass screen, depicts a smiling black valet (or slave?) fervently pouring hot chocolate for a white lady.

This ancient advertisement raises some interesting comments: 

  • This signage is one of the last witnesses in Paris of the French colonial time.
  • The use of the pejorative word « nègre » (French for negro) which is nowadays politically incorrect. It refers to colonialism brought to France. However, in the past the word « nègre » didn’t have the same connotation as it has today.
  • The old storefront was regularly damaged by paint attacks carried out against the façade of number 14 rue Mouffetard. These were the subject of heated debate that have significantly grown since then.
  • On Monday 26 September 2017, the Council of Paris decided to withdraw the « Au Nègre Joyeux » signage from the street. The painting will be restored and entrusted to the Carnavalet Museum. The Council of Paris is to spend 90,000 euros for the restoration of the sign.
  • There was much debate on whether to remove it or not. The Communist party supported the decision to withdraw the signage while others, such as the Mayor of the 5th arrondissement, suggested to leave it onto the façade. Indeed, a little informative plaque could have been placed to educate tourists and residents about this part of the French history.
Rue Mouffetard Paris

Rue Mouffetard, Paris © French Moments

So if you want to see the « Au Nègre Joyeux » signage before it is removed from rue Mouffetard, you should better hurry before it is too late! For those of you who’ll come to Paris later in the year, you’ll have to wait for the reopening of the Carnavalet Museum to see it… not before 2020!

Closest métro stations: Place Monge (line 7) or Cardinal Lemoine (lines 10).


Au Planteur, rue Montorgueil

Did you know? Another similar and controversial signage can be seen at number 12, rue Montorgueil in the 2nd arrondissement. A ceramic depicts a black servant with the words « Au Planteur » (At the Plant Grower’s). It was the site of an exclusive shop that sold products from the French colonies, hence the words « aucune succursale » (no subsidiairies).

Au Planteur Montorgueil Paris

Au Planteur, 12 rue Montorgueil © French Moments

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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