Tom Reiss: The Black Count

The web is buzzing about Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Well, not him exactly, but rather, biographer Tom Reiss’ new book on the biracial father who inspired Dumas’ novels. I first read about the book on Barnes and Noble Review, but Lathleen Ade-Brown recently posted an interview with Reiss on website The Root. Read an excerpt:

In the recently released biography The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, author Tom Reiss introduces us to an 18th-century unsung black hero. With a biracial identity like that of re-elected President Barack Obama, General Alexandre Dumas had a major impact during the French Revolution. Yet he’s not often the focus of history lessons taught in school.

The son of a black slave mother and a white French nobleman, Dumas’ real-life triumphs inspired classic fictional tales such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, written by his son, Alexandre Dumas. During the height of slavery, he fought his way through the French Revolution as Napoleon’s leading swordsman. “He’s a black man who rose to be a four-star general — the highest rank for a man of color in an all-white army before Colin Powell,” Reiss told The Root. Over the last decade, Reiss, 48, has worked to unpack the lost legacy of Dumas through in-depth international research, with often surprising results.

“Batman descended directly from The Count of Monte Cristo. He is completely inspired by that man who was inspired by General Alexandre Dumas,” Reiss added. “Batman and a lot of our superheroes were inspired by a black man.” He recently sat down with The Root to discuss why Dumas has been largely ignored and what motivated his obsession to cover him in his new book. (Read the full interview . . . )

NPR has an excerpt from the book as well. Happy reading, y’all.

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