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THE GRANDMOTHER OF DUMAS, AUTHOR OF THE THREE MUSKETEERSM CAME FROM GABÓN AND HER SURNAME FROM THE ETHNIC GROUP FANG

A black slave, Marie-Cesette Dumas

JACOBO VALCÁRCEL

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria02/03/2010

A humble black slave, Marie Cesette Dumas, great matriarch to a saga of distinguished men. Nonetheless all we know about her is that she died of dysentery and came from today’s Gabón

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A humble black slave, Marie Cesette Dumas, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to three distinguished men: Thomas-Álexandre Dumas, the son she had with the Marquis “de La Pailleterie”, a French nobleman in the colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), who became, because of his exceptional strength and bravery General in Napoleon’s army ; Alexandre Dumas, her grandson, the author of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”; and Alexandre Dumas (son), her great-grandson, who wrote just as famous novels like “ The Lady of The Camellias”.

All we know about Marie-Cesette is that she seemed to have died of dysentery when Thomas-Alexandre was twelve years old. Nevertheless Alexandre Dumas (son) tried in vain to find her roots in Haiti.


According to Calixthe Beyala, from Cameroon, author of “Lost Honours” (This novel received 1996 prestigious Prix du roman de l'Accadémie Française) or “Mother has a Lover” , Mari-Cesette Dumas came from Gabón—a country in Eastern Africa, west of Somalia bordering Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea--- and her last name “Dumas” , initially “Dûma”, originates from the ethnic group, of that area, called Fang, which means “dignity”.


Others believe that the surname Dumas originated from the slave traders that captured her and yet some others affirm that it came from her working in a farm, since Dumas proceeds from “du Mas” that means “from the farm”. The future General Dumas whom the Austrians called “the black devil” because of his courage, was to join the army using his mother’s surname, because of his own personal wish or because of paternal imposition.


Alexandre Dumas, who suffered contempt because of the colour of his skin, did not leave behind an autobiography or any other writings on his grandmother. Nevertheless there is a novel, a shorter work but perhaps one of the most personal ones he wrote, and in which perhaps, hidden key elements can be found to understand better his condition of mixed-race : “Georges” (1843), narrates the humiliations and revenge of a mulatto, that like his father General Dumas, is born in an island, (Mauritius in the novel) to be educated in France, and then returns as a leader, to avenge himself for the affronts he had suffered as a boy, producing a revolt. ( such as that which happened in Haiti).

There are many more elements in the plot that could be unfolded, but the art of telling them in an attractive and interesting manner, belong to that “enormous and agile architect” as Victor Hugo said. To reveal much more would be to undress that which is of vital importance in his works: The action that keeps us in suspense. Therefore I would only like to highlight one more element about this novel in particular. It could be that he had in mind possibly, the sad destiny of his grandmother (Marie-Cesette) when one of his characters (Nazim), who just like her is uprooted from her homeland, feels that she can hear her dead mother calling her from far off, in her birth land, personified in the song of a nightingale.


“The stout black” was the nickname used by rivals and those jealous of his success, when referring to Alexandre Dumas. Once someone tried to insult him because of his black ancestry, but his clever reply was, “ you are in the certain. My father was a mulatto, my grandmother black, my grandparents apes. Summing up sir, my pedigree starts, where yours ends”.

Alejandro Dumas son was also stigmatized by his school mates, not just because of being the son of a single woman but also because of his black blood, this of course influenced his works.
I have considered that this small fragment of the life of the Dumas’, that we may not know or are not aware of, and that can not be explained without Marie-Cesette Dumas, could be of interest to all of us that have had the privilege of meeting, through their history or their literature, at least one of them.

Comments - 8

8Rafin R. Mena06/04/2014 20:07h.
Read Marie Cesette a new novel abolut this great woman. Written by Rafin R. Mena can be adquiered in Amazon
7Zack Dumas26/12/2013 01:16h.
My father trimmed his mustache same way as some other pics I saw of Alexander Dumas ..Strange thing I do too ...oddlly enough my sister name is Marie .
6Michelle 17/09/2013 04:59h.
This information on the Dumas is of great importance to me. My Dumas family lives in Alabama and we are large. Ive always known, the last name was French descent, but didnt exactly where to start. Great starting point, funny my heart has longed for Haiti and those areas of Somali and Ethiopia.
5Cherie Dumas21/08/2013 13:49h.
My husband is a dumas he looks just like Alexander.I keep telling him there related.Someday i will research the blood line.Thanks for the info post more as you learn more.
4Deborah Dumas03/03/2013 19:54h.
WoW! I look a lot like Marie's son Alexandre Dumas (pere). I've never seen this bit of my family history before. No wonder I love writing so much and my old college professors say I need to publish my works. [Her last name “Dumas” , initially “Dûma”, originates from the ethnic group, of that area, called Fang, which means “dignity”.] Given my personality and that of my family members, this quote actually makes a lot of sense. Thank you for the history update. It is greatly appreciated.
3Rafin R. Mena01/03/2013 16:17h.
La Mulata data about Marie Csette Dumas, can be seen in www.hispanomagno.com
2Henri Marcel22/04/2012 03:21h.
Attention: Maud Brierre Si vous etes de Jeremie probablement parente au poete et ecrivain Jean Brierre.Votre arierre grandmere Rosette Dumas etait la soeur de Marie cessette Dumas .Mon arriere grandmere et aussi bien la soeurs de Marie Elisabeth Dumas Vastey la femme du baron Jean Valentin Vastey .Arrive a Saint Domingue an 1739 un an apres le marquis Davy 1738 mon arriere.
1maud brierre19/04/2011 08:09h.
Thanks for the info on Marie-Cesette Dumas. If ever you find out more please e-mail me.

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Alexandre Dumas.

ALEXANDRE DUMAS.Photography: GGB


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