Fathers, Daughters, and Slaves: Women Writers and French Colonial Slavery

Fathers, Daughters, and Slaves: Women Writers and French Colonial Slavery

Fathers, Daughters, and Slaves: Women Writers and French Colonial Slavery

Fathers, Daughters, and Slaves: Women Writers and French Colonial Slavery

Excerpt

Pour devenir adulte, il faut accomplir deux naissances, la première bien
réelle hors du ventre maternel, et l’autre plus secrète et imprévisible hors
du ventre paternel. L’histoire est un piège tendu par nos pères.

(To become an adult, you must be born twice. The first birth is the real one
from your mother’s womb. The second, more secret and unpredictable one,
is from the paternal womb. History is a trap set by our fathers.)

Writing in the first decades of the early nineteenth century, a cohort of French women assumed the role of advocates of persons of African descent, the “slaves” referred to in the title of this book. Fathers, Daughters, and Slaves looks at how these women writers pictured themselves, their biological and symbolic fathers, and the real and fictional blacks who appear in their writings. The works by these women are crucial for a full understanding of French and Atlantic history in the revolutionary and postrevolutionary years, a time when the French colonial world was menaced by the re-establishment of slave-holding authority and when class, race, and gender identities were being renegotiated. These unique contributions by women in an era of colonial nostalgia and unresolved triangular trade ambitions allow us to move beyond the traditional boundaries of exclusively male accounts by missionaries, explorers, functionaries, and military or political figures. They remind us of the imperative for ever-renewed gender and feminist research in the colonial archive.

Some of the women who told the stories considered in this book lived through the dramatic circumstances of the French or colonial revolutions and produced gripping accounts of how those events affected the lives of women and blacks. Some committed themselves to the cause of enslaved Africans in exceptional and public ways that were unusual for women of their time. Those who were well-known authors include Germaine de Staël and . . .

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