Was Alexandre Dumas Black? Google Doodle Celebrates Author Who Was Grandson of Slave

Alexandre Dumas, one of the most highly respected French authors of the 19th century, known for writing swashbuckling adventure stories, is celebrated in today's Google Doodle.

On this day in 1884, the Parisian newspaper Les Journal des Débats (The Journal of Debates) published the first installment of one of Dumas' most famous works: Le Comte de Monte Cristo, or The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Count of Monte Cristo was published serially in The Journal of Debates through 1846, a format that is reflected in today's Google Doodle, which depicts key scenes of the novel through a slide show.

Matt Cruikshank, the artist behind today's Google Doodle, said: "The slideshow format allows for a graphic novel of sequential images. This seemed like an interesting visual approach—a modern-day take on the old printed newspaper comics."

Alexandre Dumas
French author Alexandre Dumas celebrated in today's Google Doodle on the anniversary of the publication of the first installation of 'The Count of Monte Cristo'.

Was Alexandre Dumas Black?

Alexandre Dumas was born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie in Villers-Cotterêts, France, in 1802.

The author took the surname of his paternal grandmother, Marie-Césette Dumas, who was a woman of African descent and a slave in Saint-Domingue, which is present-day Haiti, and his grandfather was a white Frenchman, the Marquis Alexandre Antoine Davy de La Pailleterie, who owned Marie-Césette.

Marie-Césette gave birth to Dumas' father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, who was raised on his father's tobacco and coffee plantation in what is now Haiti, before moving to France at the age of 14.

Thomas-Alexandre joined the army and rose to the rank of general at the age of 31, which was the highest rank of any Black man in a European army.

His father died when the author was very young, but the stories of his late father's exploits entertained the author as a child and found their way into some of Dumas' most famous literary works.

Alexandre Dumas' Writing Career

Alexandre Dumas
French author Alexandre Dumas, who was the grandson of a slave, is celebrated in today's Google Doodle. Kean Collection/Getty

In 1822, Dumas moved to Paris, where he became an accomplished playwright. Then, he achieved huge success with his action-packed serialized novels of the 1840s, including Les Troi Mousquetaires, or The Three Musketeers, in 1844.

As well as novels and plays, Dumas was also a prolific writer of essays, short stories, and travelogues, and today Dumas is remembered as one of the most popular French writers in the world, with his works translated into more than 100 languages.

The final novel by Dumas, Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine, or The Last Cavalier, was published in 2005, after being uncovered in the National Library of France in Paris in the late 1980s.

Cruikshank said he hopes that with the Google Doodle: "That we can be inspired by Dumas' incredible storytelling. We can learn so much from this larger-than-life man!"

Google Doodle says: "Merci, Alexandre Dumas, for all the excitement you've given to so many readers!"