The Internet Archive has obtained some digitized American radio broadcasts from the 1940s called “The Pacific Story.”

One broadcast was about Hanoi and was entitled “Hanoi Perfume and Gunpowder.” That broadcast contains an interesting observation about “racial” relations in Hanoi in the 1940s.


To quote the broadcast:

[Narrator] “Another noteworthy phase [?] of French administration, especially to all democracy loving people, is found in the fact that the French have governed the natives of French Indochina probably with less high-handedness than any other imperial-minded people has ruled its subjects.”

[British visitor] “I say, I notice a curious thing about your French attitude in public places towards natives.”

[Frenchman] “Yes?”

[British visitor] “I mean you don’t seem to draw any color line, do you?”

[Frenchman] “Uh, ‘color line’?”

“Why, every shade of racial color is gathered right here in this café. Mongols, Tonkinese, Annamites, half-castes, quarter-castes. I must say, you treat the natives as if they were you’re equals.”

[Frenchman] “We receive them all democratically.”

[British visitor] “And, uh, do you find that a good idea?”

[Frenchman] “A very good idea, monsieur. We are after all visitors to these people’s country. We accepts one’s hospitality. Why not accept him as an equal?”

[British visitor] “But nowhere else in all the East is such a thing practiced.”

[Frenchman] “Uh, oui monsieur, I know. Yes our French clubs and French drawing rooms are open to all shades and mixtures of human beings.”

[British visitor] “What? By Jove, just look at that!”

Frenchman] “What, monsieur?”

[British visitor] “A pure-blooded French woman accompanied by a dark-skinned native!”

Frenchman] “Ah but what is wrong? Is it any more scandalous than a fair-skinned Norwegian woman being accompanied by a swarthy Spaniard to the theater in Madrid?”

[Narrator] “No one seems to know why Indochina should be the only place in Asia where such color equality should exist, or whether it has developed there as a result of government policy, or because the French people have no racial prejudices.”


I’m not sure how accurate this is, but it is interesting that someone seems to have made this observation in the 1940s.

There are many other interesting broadcasts in this series that I will discuss later. For now, here is a clip of the passage cited about, as well as a remix of this same information.