Black Literary Giants: Dumas and Pushkin

Richard Lawson Singley
13 min readMar 1, 2020
Pushkin exam at lyceum, given to those that espouse excellence in the Russian language

Before Richard Wright and James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison and other African American writers of the 20th century, there were black writers of distinction of which any race would be proud. Chief among them were Alexander Dumas (1802-1870) and Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837). Both men were the progeny of black generals that displayed extraordinary prowess and ingenuity on the battlefield. General Thomas-Alexander Dumas (1762–1806) served under Napoleon and Abraham Hannibal (1670–1761) served under Peter the Great.

Thomas Alexander Dumas

Thomas Alexander Dumas was the father of Alexander Dumas and the son of a black woman, Marie Louise Labouret, and Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, a French aristocrat. He was born in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) in 1762. The Dumas family name was adopted from Alexandre’s grandmother, an enslaved Haitian woman named Marie-Césette Dumas.

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He received his first officer’s commission at the head of a group of fellow black swordsmen: revolutionaries called the Legion of Blacks, or la Légion Noire. He had a Herculean physique and he was legendary among French soldiers. He was reported to be the best looking and strongest man in the French army. The women of France loved him, and he had several affairs.

General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, father of Alexandre Dumas

General Dumas was one of Napoleon’s greatest warriors and in Egypt, he was one of the first men off the ship. He was known as “the black devil” and his military prowess and swordsmanship were legendary. He was by all accounts the Othello of his day. Quite often he would take on more than one man at a time. As Napoleon rose through the ranks so did Dumas and he was the commander of the cavalry. He commanded tens of thousands in the field.

It was during the Egyptian campaign that Dumas’s and Napoleon’s friendship fractured. Some have speculated that it was because he refused to accept a command from Napoleon to put down the revolt in his mother’s native land of Haiti. Others have stated that the disagreement stems from a dispute over tactics while in Egypt…

Richard Lawson Singley

Author, educator, historian, former engineer at General Electric. Interested in the origins of all things. Author of A New Perspective