17. The Three Alexandres, Part 1 – The General

“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.” – Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, 1789

This week, I’m kicking off a new mini-series about the three men named Alexandre Dumas: Alexandre Dumas the war hero; his son, Alexandre Dumas the author; and his grand-son, Alexandre Dumas the playwright. Together, all three men rose to the top of their professions, garnering tremendous fame and respect, all while struggling to overcome the racial boundaries of their times. As paintings and portraits were discreetly touched up, as biographies were edited, the world forgot an essential fact of the Dumas family: these great cultural titans were biracial men, descended from aristocrats and slaves, and their contemporaries never let them forget it.


First, we’ll discuss Alexandre Dumas the war hero, one of the most celebrated generals of his age, who made one tiny mistake and ticked off a colleague of his…who happened to become the most powerful person in Europe. Uh oh.

Episode 17: “The Three Alexandres, Part 1”


First and foremost, Tom Reiss’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, The Black Count.

Dena Goodman, Furnishing The Eighteenth Century: What Furniture Can Tell Us About The European and American Past.

Laura Foner, “The Free People of Color in Louisiana and St. Domingue: A Comparative Portrait of Two Three-Caste Slave Societies”, Journal of Social History. (JSTOR)


Further Reading:

Prepare for our next episode by reading The Three Musketeers! If you haven’t done so already, it’s terrific. Hours of entertainment for five bucks – only 99 cents for a Kindle edition. 🙂 My first week living in Paris, I picked up a copy from Shakespeare and Company and spent the next two weeks walking all over Paris to visit the places mentioned in the story!

Also, in case you don’t normally check out the sources, I’m going to emphasize again just how terrific The Black Count is.