October in the UK is nominated Black History Month [BHM]. I remember when I was a teacher this fact always grieved me. The achievement of black people in history should be an on-going thing and not only allocated a single month in the year. Children should be more aware of the achievements of people of colour than being able to rattle off names like Mary Seacole or Nelson Mandela come end October. And we adults shouldn’t have to refer to lists such as 10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read.
In my own field, I confess my knowledge of black authors is restricted to Americans such as Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. I’ve only read a smattering of other poets and authors: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, John Agard, Imtiaz Dharker, Malorie Blackman. As an author of colour this shames me.
In an attempt to wash away some of my shame I’m going to do a little bit for BHM with this feature on a well-known writer born in 1802. Although he’s French, I’m certain many of you have come across his work.
You may not have read it, but you’ve certainly seen The Three Musketeers [TTM] in one of its many filmed forms.
The first I recall from my childhood is the 1974 version with a floppy haired Michael York – he reminded me of my Latin teacher. The next I came across in 1993 was Disney’s production. There are countless others.
But I confess I have a certain fondness for the BBC 2014 adaptation.
The fact this story is picked up for film and television on a regular basis is, I believe, testament to the strongly drawn characters. Not to mention the manner in which the author explores relationships and themes such as loyalty, friendship and honour.
As soon as I was given a Kindle one of the first books I downloaded was TTM along with The Count of Monte Cristo and The Black Tulip. Apart from the lengthy historical French history bits which went totally over my head, TTM was not a disappointment.
I have no doubt many of you have a similar relationship with this book and enjoy its adventures in various film and TV adaptations.
But how many, I wonder, realise it’s author, Alexandre Dumas, was the grandson of an enslaved African woman?
I confess I only found out this fact last year during a BHM workshop run at KEYS. Afterwards I did a bit of research on Dumas and discovered he was well known for collaborating with other writers and poets and was not afraid to voice his political views. His activities in this area forced him to leave France for a time which resulted in an amusing series of travel books.
He wrote plays alongside the novels we are more familiar with and much like Dickens, many of his historical novels were originally published as serials.
He boasts an impressive list of publications:
- The Man In The Iron Mask
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- The Black Tulip
- The Queen’s Necklace
- The Two Dianas
- The Regent's Daughter
And many more.
If, as yet, you haven’t given any a read then I urge you to do so. I'm enjoying discovering the ones I didn’t know about.