Lamartine and the Negro

Many French writers have dealt in their works with the question of slavery. Some have defended this institution; few have denounced it openly as a crime against humanity. The century of Enlightenment did produce some antislavery writers but not in the persons of the great philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu etc., who, however, have talked so much about social reforms. In the nineteenth century Victor Hugo has rehabilitated the Negro mainly in his historical novel Bug-Jargal; Lamartine has done much more. His various speeches, as a political figure, against the maintenance of the institution of slavery, his dramatic poem Toussaint Louverture, which is, according to the author, not a literary work but "un cri d'humanité en cinq actes et en vers," his signing of the act for the emancipation of the slaves in the name of France, all these rightfully place Lamartine in the rank of the great abolitionists who have defended with tenacity the cause of the black race in general. (JJL)

Lafontant, Julien J
Volume 1982-1983 Fall-Winter; 11(1-2): 83-95.