Alexandre Dumas: The Real Count of Monte Cristo and Great, Great Grandfather of Batman

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2002

In the recently released biography The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, author Tom Reiss introduces us to an 18th-century unsung black hero. With a biracial identity like that of re-elected President Barack Obama, General Alexandre Dumas had a major impact during the French Revolution. Yet he’s not often the focus of history lessons taught in school.

The son of a black slave mother and a white French nobleman, Dumas’ real-life triumphs inspired classic fictional tales such as The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, written by his son, Alexandre Dumas.

During the height of slavery, he fought his way through the French Revolution as Napoleon’s leading swordsman. “He’s a black man who rose to be a four-star general — the highest rank for a man of color in an all-white army before Colin Powell,” Reiss told The Root. Over the last decade, Reiss, 48, has worked to unpack the lost legacy of Dumas through in-depth international research, with often surprising results.

“Batman descended directly from The Count of Monte Cristo. He is completely inspired by that man who was inspired by General Alexandre Dumas,” Reiss added. “Batman and a lot of our superheroes were inspired by a black man.”

Read more: Lathleen Ade-Brown, The Root