19. The Three Alexandres, Part 3 – The Author

“Why do you mention my father?” screamed he; “Why do you mingle a recollection of him with the affairs of today?” – Edmond Dantes, The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

This week, I’m continuing my 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.


This week, we’ll explore the story of Alexandre Dumas, the great author, who turned a poor, uneducated upbringing into a literary gold mine which catapulted him to the top of French society – at least, until the money ran out…

Episode 19: “The Three Alexandres, Part 3”


Claude Schopp, Alexander Dumas: Genius of Life. (In all honesty, I can’t recommend this. I hope it’s a poor translation, but it’s nearly unreadable.)

André Maurois, The Titans: A Three-Generation Biography of the Dumas.

19th century English-language periodical: The Author, vol. 5-6 (1895) (relevant)

George Saintsbury, The Fortnightly Review, vol. 30 (1878) (relevant)

The Athenaeum, 1846 archives. (relevant)


Further Reading (Alexandre Dumas, duh):

Duh, it’s time to check out the masterpiece The Count of Monte Cristo. If you’ve read it before, revisit the text with new perspective – how does this book reflect the life of General Dumas in his search for justice? for dignity? If you don’t have time (it’s a long read, but an easy one), the 2002 film adaptation showcases terrific storylines and terrific cheekbones (hay-o).

  • I must say that, compared to the Americans, the French were very liberal with the question of race. To my knowledge, the elder Dumas, suffered no racial discrimination. As for his son and grandson, no one really cared. They were considered French at 100%.

    • Thank you for your comment, Iva! 🙂 I’m afraid I disagree with you completely, though. The Dumas family stand as exceptions to the rule, and if they were ever able to transcend the racial bigotry of their time, it was mostly because of their aristocratic background.

      Have you listened to any of these episodes yet? (I know you’re commenting on the episode’s page, but I’m not sure.) I think you will find the elder Dumas in particular faced tremendous discrimination throughout his life, whether while he was being sold into slavery as a child, or having his pensions denied as an old man, banned from living within Paris due to the color of his skin. Napoleon enacted specific laws targeting black French men and women, barring them from occupations, mixed-race marriages, and of course going above and beyond to bring slavery back to the French colonies after it had been abolished. Without wishing to diminish the horror of American slavery, French slavery in what is now Haiti was shockingly cruel, even by the standards of the day. Alexandre Dumas was frequently mocked for his racial history in quite shocking fashion, and his early opportunities in life were deeply circumscribed by his racial history. The Dumas family were certainly not considered 100% French, any more so than Jewish people were at the time, except insofar as the French were willing to accept them once their international fame would render any other position as absurd. If you’re interested in learning more, let me know!

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