Pre face
See Farid Laroussi and Christopher L. Miller, editors’ preface, in “French and
Francophone: The Challenge of Expanding Horizons,” special issue, Yale
French Studies 103 (2003): 1–6. On the question of human “species” and its
implications for abolitionism see chapter 6 of this volume.
Michaël Hajdenberg, “Esclavage: Bordeaux refuse de noircir son image,”
Libération, May 24, 2005, 16.
This myth was mentioned and discredited in an early work on the French
slave trade, Emmanuel Bourcier’s Le Bois d’ébène (Paris: Librairie des
Champs-Elysées, 1934), 10–11. The historian cited by Hajdenberg, Eric
Saugera, author of the definitive study on Bordeaux as a slave-trading city,
documents the presence of African slaves there but says nothing about any
captives “transiting” through French ports on their way to the Antilles. See
Eric Saugera, Bordeaux port négrier: Chronologie, économie, idéologie, XVIIe-
XVIIIe siècles (Paris: Karthala, 1995), 288–92.
See Pierre Nora, ed., Les Lieux de mémoire, 7 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1984).
And see Marc Ferro, ed., Le Livre noir du colonialisme: XVIe–XXIe siècle, de
l’extermination à la repentance (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2003), 103–131.
In this, France’s memory of slavery is somewhat like that of the older northern
states of the United States. Until recently these states thought of themselves
as innocent of slavery and the slave trade; now a movement of renewed his-
toriography has begun to change that misperception. The conference “Yale,
New Haven, and American Slavery,” organized by the Gilder Lehrman Cen-
ter for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University, Sep-
tember 26–28, 2002, addressed this issue, as did the exhibit at the New York
Historical Society, “Slavery in New York,” October 7, 2005–March 5, 2006.
But one fundamental difference remains between the northern U.S. states and
France: there were “no slaves in France.” On this theme see chapter 2. For a
comprehensive overview of French perspectives on the slave trade see Fran-
çoise Vergès, “Les Troubles de mémoire: Traite négrière, esclavage et écriture
de l’histoire,” in Cahiers d’études africaines (forthcoming). The report issued
by the Comité pour la mémoire de l’esclavage, of which Maryse Condé is
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