In this new series featuring American-Scandinavian Foundation Fellows, we’ll look at multicultural conversations taking place in contemporary Scandinavia. How is culture performed, consumed, transformed and transmitted in societies where people and information are accessible across nations’ borders? What risks and opportunities do these changes pose for Scandinavian culture in the U.S. and elsewhere?

ASF Fellow Ethelene Whitmire presents “In the Pursuit of Happiness: African Americans in Denmark.” This presentation, based on Whitmire’s book-in-progress Searching for Utopia: African Americans in 20th Century Denmark, looks at why famous African Americans like singer Ella Fitzgerald and jazz musician Dexter Gordon moved to Denmark, and examines the extraordinary experiences of those who explored what it meant to be an African American abroad in Scandinavia.

In 1910, civil rights leader and educator Booker T. Washington went to Denmark, met the Danish King and Queen, and declared it the happiest country in the world. Throughout the 20th century, other African American artists, writers, singers, dancers, scholars, students, tourists, conscientious objectors, Black Panthers, and more followed in his footsteps, and eventually a large number of jazz musicians moved to Denmark to live and raise families.


About Professor Ethelene Whitmire

Ethelene Whitmire is a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison affiliated with the departments of Afro-American Studies, German, Nordic, and Slavic, and Gender & Women’s Studies. She is the recipient of an American-Scandinavian Foundation fellowship for the ongoing project Searching for a Rainbow: African Americans in 20th Century Denmark, who looks at African Americans who lived, performed, studied and visited Denmark.

She was also a 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar and visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Transnational American Studies. Her first book, Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian., was published in 2014 by University of Illinois Press.



THU—November 15—7 PM, free