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Thread: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    According to his Wiki page, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (1762-1806), progeny of a French nobleman and black Haitian slave, only shared the title of général d'armée with one other black historical figure of the French military, that being Toussaint Louverture of Haiti. While commanding the Army of the Alps (Armée des Alpes) during the French Revolution, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas was nicknamed the Schwarzer Teufel ("Black Devil") by Austrian troops who witnessed his prowess in battle during the French campaigns in Italy. He was obviously the father of the famed novelist Alexandre Dumas (Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers).

    Yet outside the history of France or Haiti, Dumas was also the only black person to hold so high a military rank until Colin Powell was made a four-star general of the United States and appointed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989. That would lead one to conclude Dumas apparently didn't do much to break new ground for blacks in the Western world to distinguish themselves in military command. Of course there are many examples of black officers who distinguished themselves between the time of Dumas and Powell, but none who reached their level of authority. It's common knowledge that black officers are few and far between in today's militaries outside of Africa. My question is why? And how much did Dumas' leadership impact the thinking of the Western world about the command abilities of blacks at the time?


  2. #2

    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    In the eighteenth century free black individuals were, while not commonplace, not all that rare in Europe. And these could serve in white military units, especially in navies - the late 18th century British royal navy employed many of African descent, one rising to the rank of captain (sorry name escapes me). In pre-Revolutionary France, a number of aristocrats and moneyed men from the colonies were happy to introduce their mixed race sons to society - so Dumas wasn't alone in Parisian circles (though his dad did sell his other kids, these were morally bizarre times).

    Early revolutionary France was a meritocracy – which outlawed slavery and in theory supported the rights of all men of any color – so Dumas' undeniable and often proven ability as an officer, administrator and an individual all-round badass were far more important in the eyes of his comrades. His Caribbean slave ancestry was even celebrated in the press as proof of the Revolution's ideals. Just to add: what I admire most about him is his absolute decency and humanity, he was a vivid contrast to the noxious, paranoid and vicious Revolutionary committees whose will he was forced to uphold in the royalist Vendee region.

    Why didn't he set a new precedent? Basically because of Napoleon, who upon taking power quickly began to reverse the anti-slavery stance of the revolution (France had the world's most lucrative slave holdings and just couldn't afford this new enlightened principle). He declared war on the Haitians and reinstated slavery. Anti-race mixing laws and forced registration of blacks also seeped into the Emperor's France. So France, which initially had made it possible for a man like Dumas to rise, soon made it impossible and the precedent was lost.

    Also, unfortunately Dumas exited the historical stage too early - he and his clique of officers fell out with the future emperor in Egypt and effectively ended their career arcs. He then rotted in a Napolitan prison until 1801 (simply disembarked in a newly hostile port by accident) and died of cancer soon after- so he was never a name associated with the height of the Napoleonic era - Borodino, Austerlitz, etc. Napoleon's first Italian campaign is arguably his least famous, so Dumas' career became more a footnote in Napoleon's early rise rather than a famous name that may have impacted on nineteenth century attitudes.
    Last edited by Blarni; August 21, 2013 at 03:25 AM.

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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Dumas was a pretty good division commander and a pretty good cavalry commander, in fact Napoleon had him requested to command the troops in the Tyrol and also secretly summoned him to take part in his Egyptian campaign. His earlier career saw little promotion when he served under Napoleon in Italy due to his constant squabbles with Berthier cause Dumas could be quite the little pistol. And in Egypt he engaged in constant clashes with Napoleon. Apparently his family was never paid after his death, I wonder why that is.
    Last edited by Lord Oda Nobunaga; August 21, 2013 at 10:35 AM.

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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Don't know what OP try to get into; it is not like there was a single Indian general throughout whole Chinese history so why you expect there would be a black general in European history?

    Edit: Technically Thomas-Alexandre Dumas is not a black by the way.
    Last edited by hellheaven1987; August 21, 2013 at 11:08 AM.
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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Blarni View Post
    Why didn't he set a new precedent? Basically because of Napoleon...
    Well said. As Money also points out above, under Napoleon's regime Dumas wasn't given his due military pension either. His son and namesake spent years in poverty before becoming an acclaimed writer.

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    Don't know what OP try to get into; it is not like there was a single Indian general throughout whole Chinese history so why you expect there would be a black general in European history?
    Because, as Blarni accurately points out, there were plenty of free black men in Europe and even the US to choose from in the 18th century. Perhaps no person of India ever commanded a Chinese army, but there have been many non-Han ethnics to do so, such as various Turkic peoples born in the northern steppes or born in China proper with Turkic ancestry. There are many examples from the Southern and Northern Dynasties, Sui, and Tang periods. For instance, the infamous rebel general An Lushan had both Sogdian and Göktürk ancestry, and he nearly brought down the Tang Empire. Even China's most well-known admiral Zheng He was a Hui Muslim.

    And to reinforce my point even further, the Han Chinese occasionally enslaved people of Turkic origin, so there! I realize it wasn't anything as systematic as early modern Europeans enslaving black Africans, but still.

    Edit: Technically Thomas-Alexandre Dumas is not a black by the way.
    Well, his ancestry was 50% black Haitian and 50% white French. Are you trying to say he was coffee with cream or something? He's basically as black as the current President of the United States, Obama (50% black Kenyan, 50% white American).

  6. #6

    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    He was a metis or mulatre rather than a black.

    In france that made a difference, there was no "one-drop rule".

    Although, technically any freed slave, being 100% african or metis could have had the same career... It's just it was less likely for an african than for a metis given they suffered from more prejudice and couldn't rely on having a rich parent who gave them a real education.

    Another famous "black" man of the period (he was a metis too though) was Georges Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, he was quite the man and had a very interesting career (soldier, musician, swordmen...).

  7. #7

    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Yet outside the history of France or Haiti, Dumas was also the only black person to hold so high a military rank until Colin Powell was made a four-star general of the United States and appointed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989.
    Free negros were still unable to hold military rank in the state or federal service, as whites only were held to military service in state militia ordinances, till 1865 made negros citizens able to be held for mil service and so State Militia and ferderal miltia acts had to change. During the WBTS the Milita act of 62 brought negros into federal military service.

    To hold a high rank one would have had to pass through WP or another State institution, and free negos were not doing that for a some time, so finding a negro in high mil office is not suprising given the inherent disadvantages to be found in the US.

    That would lead one to conclude Dumas apparently didn't do much to break new ground for blacks in the Western world to distinguish themselves in military command. Of course there are many examples of black officers who distinguished themselves between the time of Dumas and Powell, but none who reached their level of authority.
    Not really, in the US there have only been 5 negro Senators since revels in 1870, and the first governor in 1966, its more a question about the racism and its decline, and attendent rise in opourtunity, in the US rather than lack of ability.

    It's common knowledge that black officers are few and far between in today's militaries outside of Africa. My question is why? And how much did Dumas' leadership impact the thinking of the Western world about the command abilities of blacks at the time?
    Not only a US thing, the uk first black african to be commisioned in Sandhurst, was in 1942, and the first one to lead men into combat was in ww1 Walter Tull http://www.100greatblackbritons.com/...lter_tull.html Major Seth Anthony http://www.independent.co.uk/news/ob...y-1648287.html

    UK Household Div had its first negro officer in 2001 http://ghanaweb.com/mobile/wap.small...e.php?ID=15638

    Uk first negro boxing champion was Jhonson in 1975, rather later than i would have thought as well.

    Bottom line, show me a county which has equal opourtunity for ethnic minirities and you will find them in high office, when you dont, the reason is society is unwilling/unready to have them there.
    Last edited by Hanny; August 21, 2013 at 02:41 PM.
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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Eats, shoots, and leaves.

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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Black Jack Pershing

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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Kitsunegari View Post
    Black Jack Pershing
    Was white

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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Despite having the word "black" in his nickname.

    On a side note, Pershing was the only military officer in US history to hold the grandiose title of General of the Armies (plural). Back in the 1970s Congress felt the need to retroactively raise America's first commander-in-chief George Washington to the same level of rank, but with somehow higher authority.

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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Yes he did from his time as OC of the 10th Cav a negro unit, the nickname stuck to him when he was an instructor at WP. Whites commanding negros was still a slur to many Army Officers who gave him the name.

    Btw Washington held a LT Gen rank, which gave him authority over all Armies, this rank was not used till W Scott was granted it on temp bassis for the mexico war, and again reinstated for Grant, who as a LT Gen had authority over all armies in federal service, answering only to POTUS. Washington in 1976 was promoted to general of Armies for teh Cebntinal celibrations. Pershing got the same for his ww1 service.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General...ionary_War_era
    Last edited by Hanny; August 23, 2013 at 12:58 PM.
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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Hanny
    Free negros were still unable to hold military rank .... till 1865 made negros citizens .... brought negros into federal military service. .... so finding a negro in high mil office.... only been 5 negro Senators .... had its first negro officer in 2001 ..... Uk first negro boxing champion ..... Whites commanding negros was still a slur to many Army Officers who gave him the name.....

    Hanny, don't you find that your so repeated use of the word 'negro' .... may be considered someway inappropriate, not politically correct, and also someway ..... disturbing?

    I haven't still understood the point of this discussion, but this is probably a limit of my poor intellect, and probably reading more .... of this ... this ... 'thread', I'll see the light!

    Anyway, Hanny, if you meet Mr. Obama and say him: 'Hi, negro!' ... what do you think it would be his reaction?

    Don't you find that probably it would be more appropriate using the word 'black' or 'African American' or something similar maybe less ...... 'Confederate'?

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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    I don't believe he uses it maliciously but it is a strange choice of word. Maybe they say negro in his native language as many do, but even then its common knowledge that, in English, negro is at best an obsolete term.
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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Gatsby View Post
    I don't believe he uses it maliciously but it is a strange choice of word. Maybe they say negro in his native language as many do, but even then its common knowledge that, in English, negro is at best an obsolete term.
    In Spanish negro means black so switching negro for black is not obvious to someone from Spain and similar languages because to him there is no difference in meaning, just that the English lifted the term from Spanish.
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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Mangalore View Post
    In Spanish negro means black so switching negro for black is not obvious to someone from Spain and similar languages because to him there is no difference in meaning, just that the English lifted the term from Spanish.
    As I recall, Negro was once the polite way of describing black people. Once.

  17. #17

    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Diocle View Post
    Hanny, don't you find that your so repeated use of the word 'negro' .... may be considered someway inappropriate, not politically correct, and also someway ..... disturbing?
    No. Its good enough for the US Census.
    "What is this person's race?" is an option that reads, "Black, African Am., or Negro."


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Negro_College_Fund
    The United Negro College Fund, or UNCF, is an American philanthropic organization that funds scholarships for black students and general scholarship funds for 39 privatehistorically black colleges and universities. The UNCF was incorporated on April 25, 1944 by Frederick D. Patterson (then president of what is now Tuskegee University),Mary McLeod Bethune, and others. The UNCF is headquartered at 1805 7th Street, NW in Washington, DC [1] In 2005, the UNCF supported approximately 65,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities with approximately $113 million in grantsand scholarships

    #When i intend an insult the reader is left in no doubt they have been insulted. You should know, as i have pointed out to you on many instances where your ignorant and uneducated and ignoring/contardicting primary ancient texts in your own native langaugue. Just as now, after reading the contrent of my post, you conclude that it is derootory to negros, when it is not.

    Lastly... http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/...s-grandfather/ Why did Obama use the N-word to describe his grandfather?


    Last edited by DimeBagHo; August 24, 2013 at 07:16 PM.
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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
    As I recall, Negro was once the polite way of describing black people. Once.
    Martin Luther King refereed to his people as Negro's in his i have a dream speech , it only really fell out of use in the 50's, 60's when the leaders started to associate it with slavery segregation and discrimination .

    so it wasn't that long ago

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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    Quote Originally Posted by Hanny View Post
    No. Its good enough for the US Census.
    "What is this person's race?" is an option that reads, "Black, African Am., or Negro."


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Negro_College_Fund
    The United Negro College Fund, or UNCF, is an American philanthropic organization that funds scholarships for black students and general scholarship funds for 39 privatehistorically black colleges and universities. The UNCF was incorporated on April 25, 1944 by Frederick D. Patterson (then president of what is now Tuskegee University),Mary McLeod Bethune, and others. The UNCF is headquartered at 1805 7th Street, NW in Washington, DC [1] In 2005, the UNCF supported approximately 65,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities with approximately $113 million in grantsand scholarships

    #When i intend an insult the reader is left in no doubt they have been insulted. You should know, as i have pointed out to you on many instances where your ignorant and uneducated and ignoring/contardicting primary ancient texts in your own native langaugue. Just as now, after reading the contrent of my post, you conclude that it is derootory to negros, when it is not.

    Lastly... http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/...s-grandfather/ Why did Obama use the N-word to describe his grandfather?


    -Can you tell us how many people responded as negro?
    -The UNCF was founded in 1944, when it wasn't an archaic word. If it was founded now it would be named differently.
    -Lastly Fox News. And the very fact that it created controversy when he said it shows that the word is not accepted in common usage now.

    You don't need to be right on a matter so minor as your incorrect choice of words, especially when you are wrong, and the only way you know how to argue your case is to put-down other posters with irrelevant and poorly articulated insults.
    Last edited by Gatsby; August 25, 2013 at 03:14 AM.
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    Default Re: From Thomas-Alexandre Dumas until Colin Powell, no black general in Western world of equivalent rank

    [QUOTE=Gatsby;13164990]-Can you tell us how many people responded as negro?[quote]

    Its in the 2010 Census.http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/b...c2010br-06.pdf

    -The UNCF was founded in 1944, when it wasn't an archaic word. If it was founded now it would be named differently.
    It can change its name anytime it likes, it has chosen not to do so, unlike for example the baseball Negro Leugue has chosen to change its name. http://www.negrospiritual.org/ isa newish organization, yet it delbertly chose the term negro.

    -Lastly Fox News. And the very fact that it created controversy when he said it shows that the word is not accepted in common usage now.
    He asked how do i think POTUS would respond, the link gives fairly good indication of what POTUS might reply with.

    You don't need to be right on a matter so minor as your incorrect choice of words, especially when you are wrong, and the only way you know how to argue your case is to put-down other posters with irrelevant and poorly articulated insults.
    When you have something to contribute to the thread let me know.
    Last edited by Hanny; August 25, 2013 at 04:36 AM.
    “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” Benjamin Franklin

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