The Black Count

The Black Count by Tom Reiss, is the biography of Alexandre Dumas. Not the author Alexandre Dumas, but his father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas. The son of an interracial couple, Dumas had the fortune to grow up in Paris and the French sugar colony of Saint-Dominque at a time when racial prejudice was unheard of.

Dumas was born in 1762 in Saint-Dominque (now Haiti). His father was a French noble man who had renounced his family and run away, his mother was a black slave. Alexandre's father eventually reconciled with his family, sold off his other children and took Alexandre back to France. His father, Alexandre Antoine Davy was now the Marquis de la Pailleterie. After receiving the education of a French nobleman, Alexandre renounced his father, took his mother's name of Dumas and enlisted in the French army as a dragoon.

Dumas was a superb soldier. Tall for his time, dark skinned, intelligent, and extremely gifted athletically, Dumas rose to the rank of General. His military career is filled with escapades and exploits that his son (the novelist Alexandre Dumas) used in his novels. The three duels in one day in the Three Musketeers? True.  Betrayed and held captive on a deserted island for years as told in the Count of Monte Cristo? Also true.

This book was very interesting. General Dumas was an amazing person. He had the luck to live in a time when he could be successful and his race was not an issue. He married a white noblewoman and he had a son who was a writer who preserved the General's exploits for history. The book however was very heavy on French history - really heavy on French history. Which is fine for me as I don't know much about it. However, I do recommend this book. Dumas is a fascinating character who lived in very interesting times.

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