The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, Tom Reiss

CountThe author tells the story of the real Count of Monte Cristo, Haitian born,Tomas Alexander Dumas, and the battles he fought as he endeavored to protect France and its principles. The author presents this true story in an easy to understand format, although occasionally the timeline gets a bit confused as it travels back and forth through historic moments. He explains the development of the slave trade in North Africa as well as the history of the relationship between Muslims and slavery. Regardless of color, religion, or sex, the Muslims simply enslaved all they conquered.
The book is very well researched and Reiss throws us into the history of France, in the 1700’s, during the career of Tomas Dumas. Born in Santa Domingue, (known as Haiti today), he fights in the French Revolution and eventually rises through the ranks to become a well known general, in spite of the color of his skin. He was known for his dedication to the cause and his bravery in battle. He rarely suffered a loss, although he did suffer injuries and indignities. He did not give up easily.
Tomas Dumas was the father of the acclaimed novelist, Alexander Dumas, and he was the father upon which the novelist based his famous swashbuckling character, “The Count of Monte Cristo”, although in the book, the Count is white. The novelist was actually the son of a man of mixed race and a mother who was a Caucasian. In France, racial prejudice, as we know it, did not exist. It was possible for a person of color to attain great success and fortune. However, after Napoleon crossed the globe with his armies, conquering nations and accomplishing much of his agenda, he reversed earlier policies granting racial and religious freedom, and instead, he reinstated even stricter laws which prohibited many people from living freely. These changes significantly increased the racial divide and racial prejudice, creating a feeling of hopelessness for many non-Caucasians who could easily be sent back, or sold, into slavery.
This was a time in history when the most brutal methods of punishment were used, i.e., prisons offered little in the way of food or comfort, bribery and graft were the order of the day, there were mass drowning in which the victims were bound together, hands and feet, and dropped into the water, in what was called “Republican Marriages”. Hundreds were murdered in this way. Also, at this time, the guillotine was developed and used as a method of execution. During the time that General Dumas was unjustly imprisoned, his health severely declined because of the brutal conditions in which he was forced to live. He had little food, lived in a damp, cold cell and was subjected to barbaric medical treatments, and he suspected he was being slowly poisoned.
During his life, General Dumas was known as The Black Count, The Black Devil, and the Hercules of his time, because of his great successes and achievements in combat. The author exposes us to the many major events and battles like the storming of the Bastille, the harbinger of the French Revolution, the Battle of Charlemagne, the fall of the French Government and the essential end of the reign of the King of France, culminating with his eventual beheading. The revolution inspired irrational behavior. We travel through time with Dumas, through The Reign of Terror and Robespierre, the disastrous Battle of the Nile in which massive treasures were lost, up to the exile of Napoleon and the untimely death of General Dumas, at the approximate age of 40. He was an unsung hero of the times, and he is, even today, largely unknown. He suffered through the capricious nature of the powers that be which alternately made him more powerful or completely powerless.
In summary, in the 1700’s, in Europe, people of mixed race were called Americans because they came from the Americas. Antoine Alexander was a Marquis, who was the novelist Alexander Dumas’ grandfather. He married a slave. Tomas Alexander, known as the General Alexander Dumas, was their son. Tomas, a Mulatto, marries a wealthy white woman, and they have two daughters and a son who is the novelist Alexander Dumas, a Quadroon. The novelist based his famous book, The Count of Monte Cristo on his father, although in the book, the Count is Caucasian. Because of racism, this was the best way to present his stories. France was the forerunner in abolishing slavery, but as time went on, power changed hands and it became more difficult for anyone of color to remain in the country unless they met impossible restrictions. There is so much detail offered, it was often hard to absorb it all. Perhaps it requires a second reading, as some books do, in order to gain the full benefit of all the information presented.


About omasvoice

Who am I? I am you. I am everyone out there who loves to read and discuss and voice an opinion!
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Books for Adults, Non-Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

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