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The Black Count: Glory, Revolution,…

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte… (2012)

by Tom Reiss

Other authors: Christian Rugstad (Translator)

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946939,192 (4.06)2 / 168
Recently added bysaskia17, AntonyPanoutsos, jmilloy, private library, albannachcymru, Jaakko_R, MissBec, ithomson
  1. 30
    The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père (marieke54)
  2. 20
    The Black Jacobins by C. L. R. James (Artymedon)
    Artymedon: The three revolutions that created our modern world are the American the Haitian and the French Revolution. The story of the Black Count is the point of intersection between the three in that they tried and did for a short time create a society based on the principle of equality for man regardless of race, birth or religion. It is also the key for the lecture of Alexandre Dumas' important works [[The Count of Monte-Cristo]] and [[Georges]], the later treating the question of race. That the real father of Dumas, a general of the French revolution be less known that his illustrious son author of the "Three Musketeers" is explained by how the reaction to the French revolution and the counter coup of the Thermidorians followed by that of the strong man of the sugar lobby, Napoleon, reestablished slavery in the Antilles. It is also the story of how and how it failed to do so in St Domingue, where the Black Count was born a slave, prompting the independence of this nation as black and mulatto only Haiti followed by its economic blocade by the rest of the world. Tom Reiss not only writes wonderfully be he also researched his subject in the Castle of Vincennes France and in the Dumas archives in Villers-Cotteret because this extraordinary Black Count, unlike Edmond Dantes, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, really existed.… (more)
  3. 20
    Georges by Alexandre Dumas (Artymedon)
    Artymedon: A novel over race relations by Alexandre Dumas who was inspired by Alex Dumas General of the French Revolution and former slave to create his fictional character Georges as narrated by Tom Reiss.
  4. 00
    Mes mémoires by Alexandre Dumas (LamontCranston)
  5. 00
    Monsieur de Saint-George: Virtuoso, Swordsman, Revolutionary: A Legendary Life Rediscovered by Alain Guede (goddesspt2)

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Lively narration and an interesting story about the life made fiction in the Count of Monte Cristo. Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a mixed face son of France rises fron an enlisted dragoon to general under Napolean. His legandary strength and courage made him a hero to his men and a threat to the future Emperor. ( )
  jamespurcell | Mar 27, 2017 |
Lively narration and an interesting story about the life made fiction in the Count of Monte Cristo. A mulatto warrior,he rises to be a French General during a brief but strangely enlightened period of their Revolution. He is continually successful in battle and stays true to his revolutionary principles until he runs afoul of the apolitical and self serving First Consul Napolean. Agiain, successful n the invasion of Egypt, he is captured and imprisioned in Italy. Finally, released and retuning to France, he is never asked to serve again. Health broken, he dies at an early age; leaving the legends that serve his novelist son so well. ( )
  jamespurcell | Mar 27, 2017 |
Tom Reiss’s The Black Count is an extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man: father to the novelist Alexandre Dumas and grandfather to the renowned playwright of the same name. Alex Dumas, however, was born a slave in what is now Haiti, but rose to become a general in the army of revolutionary France. As the illegitimate but recognized son of a marquis in France, Alex Dumas entered pre-revolutionary Parisian society as one of the elite. Trained in fencing and riding, he cut a considerable figure, given his imposing physical stature. When the revolution came, he joined it whole-heartedly, rising in the ranks from private to general of a division.

Reiss uses Alex Dumas also to explore the racial politics of the revolution, which pursued surprisingly enlightened policies. The favor with which society welcomed blacks and mulattos, all popularly called “Americans”, the removal of racial laws, the spirit of the revolution itself all helped Alex Dumas make the most of his abilities, which were considerable. No wonder he was devoted to the Republic. But when Napoleon rose to power, he re-instituted many racial laws. The fact that this damaged Dumas, a prisoner of war at the time and a general Napoleon detested, was just gravy.

Along the way, Reiss shows how various incidences in Alex Dumas’s life play out in his son’s fiction, how Dumas’s heroic exploits and impressive physical traits translate into such familiar literary figures as the Count of Monte Crisco.
Highly recommended. ( )
  barlow304 | Feb 27, 2017 |
Few readers astounded by Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckling tales of derring do in The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers realize they have a basis in a true French hero - Dumas' father. The story of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas - a larger than life character befitting any novel - is well worth resurrecting from obscurity. He was a black man who rose to Commander-in-Chief (equivalent of a four star general), "the highest rank for a man of color in an all-white army before Colin Powell."

Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was born on a Haitian sugar plantation to a French nobleman father and slave mother. When the father returned to France, he took his then freed son along and gave him a gentleman's education. When Thomas Alexandre decided to join the military at the very lowest level, the father was incensed that his name would be attached to a private. The resulting, never-repaired rupture led Thomas Alexandre to adopt his slave mother's name, 'Dumas'.

Surviving the French Revolution, Dumas rose quickly through the ranks, gaining a reputation for valor, physical strength, moral conviction, and courageous leadership. He was revered and respected by those men serving under him. By 1796, he formed an alliance with Napoleon Bonaparte which would lead to Dumas' greatest fame and lowest despair. They fought together through the Italian and Egyptian campaigns. His great height (over 6 foot tall) and dark good looks led the Egyptians to believe he was the leader, not Napoleon. This assuredly did not sit well with Napoleon.

Dumas, having the "unique perspective of being from the highest and lowest ranks of society at the same time", was firmly committed to The Republic's principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. He soon came to feel Napoleon was more interested in self-aggrandizement than concern for his own soldiers. After a confrontation, Dumas was ordered back to France. On the way, the poorly equipped ship ran aground. Dumas was thrown into an Italian dungeon as a prisoner of war. There he languished for two years. Napoleon refused to have his name spoken in his presence. Dumas' wife eventually won his release. He returned to France a broken man.

Although novelist Alexandre Dumas was just a young boy when his father died, he was raised on stories of his meteoric rise, enormous charisma and military prowess. These form the basis of his greatest novels. To those who knew General Dumas, the fictional characters were thinly veiled depictions of the great man. Nevertheless, the victors write the history and Napoleon effectively erased his quarrelsome General from our collective consciousness.

Author Thomas Reiss goes far in repairing and resurrecting the Black Count's reputation. This is a fast moving book that kept me drawn in to the finish. One might complain that Reiss slips occasionally into hagiography, and also inserts himself too much into this otherwise engaging story. The book opens with Reiss battling with French bureaucracy and dynamiting into a sealed safe in an attempt to access some Dumas family documents and memorabilia. Overall, though, I was quite satisfied. Anyone who is a big fan of the younger Dumas' novels, or those lovers of military history will be particularly drawn to this book. ( )
6 vote michigantrumpet | Feb 12, 2017 |
The name Alexandre Dumas is well known, but before the author and his playwright son was the General. Tom Reiss brings the little known founder of the Dumas family into the spotlight in The Black Count, a born slave of noble blood turned Republican general in the service of France. This giant of a man both of stature in the view of his novelist son cast a long shadow since his death.

Born in modern Haiti as a slave to a French nobleman father, Alexandre life suddenly changed when he joined on his father’s return journey to France to take is family title. However after years of dealing with his father behavior, Alexandre joined the French army and with the coming of the French Revolution into Republican government. His daring feats in the field and dedication to the ideals of republicanism sent him quickly up the chain of command to General. Continuing his lead in front style, Alexandre was sent to lead men on every front that France needed him. But it was his feats during the Italian campaign that truly brought him his greatest fame and yet began his long cold relationship with another General, Napoleon. After more spectacular feats in Egypt and yet more conflict with Napoleon, Alexandre decided to return to France but was then captured in southern Italy only to emerge two year later into a new France in which his desire to service his country was rejected by its new leader. Five years after his release, Alexandre died leaving his young son bereaved. Yet, the legendary events of his life would inspire young Alexandre with a lot of material for his epic heroes including one Edmund Dantes.

The Black Count is a thrilling ride following a mixed raced former slave fighting for the republican ideals of his new homeland even as radical political events shift all around him, yet Alexandre Dumas quickly became a hero to the French until his capture and release into an entirely different France that didn’t appreciate him. Tom Reiss brought to life of a little known French Republican general that had a long lasting impact on history outside of the military and political sphere to the enjoyment of readers around the world. ( )
  mattries37315 | Nov 8, 2016 |
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It was nearly midnight on the night of February 26, 1806, and Alexandre Dumas, the future author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, was asleep at his uncle's house. He was not yet four years old.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 030738246X, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2012: Generations have been enthralled by Alexandre Dumas' characters, especially the wronged hero in The Count of Monte Cristo and the daring swordsmen in The Three Musketeers. Yet few realize that these memorable characters were inspired by Dumas' father, General Alex Dumas, the son of a French count and a black Haitian slave. Tom Reiss brings the elder Dumas alive with previously unpublished correspondence and meticulous research, providing the context necessary to understand how exceptional his life as a mulatto general in a slave-owning empire truly was. From single-handedly holding a bridge in the Alps against 20 enemies to spending years held captive in a fortress, Alex Dumas is a fascinating character that not even his son's vivid imagination could have dreamed up. --Malissa Kent

An Essay by Author Tom Reiss

Tom Reiss

I've always loved exploring history. It's like an uncharted hemisphere, and when you look at it closely, it has a tendency to change everything about your own time. I'm also drawn to outsiders, people who have swum against the tide. I often feel like a kind of detective hired to go find people who have been lost to history, and discover why they were lost. Whodunnit?

In this case, I found solid evidence that, of all people, Napoleon did it: he buried the memory of this great man – Gen. Alexandre Dumas, the son of a black slave who led more than 50,000 men at the height of the French Revolution and then stood up to the megalomaniacal Corsican in the deserts of Egypt. (The "famous" Alexandre Dumas is the general's son – the author of The Three Musketeers.) Letters and eyewitness accounts show that Napoleon came to hate Dumas not only for his stubborn defense of principle but for his swagger and stature – over six feet tall and handsome as a matinee idol – and for the fact that he was a black man idolized by the white French army. (I found that Napoleon's destruction of Dumas coincided with his destruction of one of the greatest accomplishments of the French Revolution – racial equality – a legacy he also did his best to bury.)

I first came across Gen. Dumas's life in the memoir of his son Alexandre, the novelist. And what a life! Alex Dumas, as he preferred to be known, was born in Saint Domingue, later Haiti, the son of a black slave and a good-for-nothing French aristocrat who came to the islands to make a quick killing and instead barely survived. In fact, to get back to France in order to claim an inheritance, he actually "pawned" his black son into slavery, but then he bought him out, brought him to Paris, and enrolled him in the royal fencing academy, and then the story begins to get interesting.

What really stuck with me from reading the memoir was the love that shows through from the son, the writer, for his father, the soldier. I could never forget the novelist describing the day his father died. His mother met him on the stairs in their house, lugging his father's gun over his shoulders, and asked him what he was doing. Little Alexandre replied: "I'm going to heaven to kill God – for killing daddy." When he grew up, he took a greater sort of revenge, infusing his father's life and spirit into fictional characters like Edmond Dantes and D'Artagnan, with shades of Porthos, too. But the image of the angry child stuck with me and drove me onward to discover every scrap of evidence I could about his forgotten father.

And recovering the life of the real man behind these stories was the ultimate historical prospecting journey for me: I learned about Maltese knights and Mameluke warriors, the tricks of 18th-century spycraft and glacier warfare, torchlight duels in the trenches and portable guillotines on the front; I got to know about how Commedia del Arte influenced Voodoo and how a Jacobin sultan influenced the Star-Spangled Banner, about chocolate cures for poisoning and the still brisk trade in Napoleonic hair clippings. I discovered the amazing forgotten civil rights movement of the 18th century – and its unraveling – though the most amazing thing about this story of a black man in a white world was how little race stood in his way: how Alex Dumas's future father-in-law never once questioned his daughter marrying a man of color but only asked that he get promoted to sergeant first (later he lovingly referred to his son-in-law simply as "the General").

Finally, the memoir set me not only on a historical adventure but on an adventure in the present day that was straight out of a Dumas novel. I began by visiting the gray town in northeast France where the general died – where I found a dead museum secretary, a locked safe, and a host of unlikely, inspiring characters to make my journey a far from lonely one.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:43 -0400)

In this extraordinary biography, Tom Reiss traces the almost unbelievable life of the man who inspired not only Monte Cristo, but all three of the Musketeers: the novelist's own father.

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