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Friday, December 07, 2012

The Black Count by Tom Reiss

This tale about the swashbuckling general, General Alexandre Dumas (the novelist's father), reads like a novel and never fails to be exciting.  The mulatto general, the son of an aristocrat and his black wife, was lucky enough to receive an excellent education and rose to the top of his career in the army quickly.

This book relates his exploits as he led the Army of the Alps, sparred with Napoleon, and attempted to uphold the true principles of the French Revolution.  Sometimes it's a little bit too admiring, I feel.  However, anyone interested in French history will love this book.

I found the little-known story of the legal battles for the rights of mixed-race peoples and former slaves in France especially interesting. More than two hundred years before the Civil Rights movement in America, former slaves who landed on French soil were regarded as free (with several exceptions), and a society for the advancement of black people established a school for bright mixed-race and black boys.

The anecdotes about Reiss's research were also enjoyable.

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