Alexandre Dumas, the mixed-race French author famed for writing The Count of Monte Cristo, has been given the digital blackface treatment by Google.
Dumas, also known for being the man behind The Three Musketeers, was born in Picardy in France in 1802, to Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a French divisional general, and Marie-Louise Elisabeth Labouret, the daughter of an innkeeper.
While Marie-Louise was white, the same couldn’t be said of Thomas-Alexandre. He was born in Saint-Domingue, what is now Haiti, to Marquis Alexandre Antoine Davy de le Pailleterie, a French nobleman, and Marie-Cessette Dumas, a slave of African descent.
Thomas-Alexandre was notably one of the highest-ranking men of African descent to ever lead a European army, and along with Toussaint Louverture, appointed a general-in-chief in 1797, were the highest ranked officers of African descent in the West until 1975.
It is unclear the exact ethnicity of Marie-Cessette, but this would result in Thomas-Alexandre being potentially half black, with Alexandre ending up being up to one quarter black. Colourised photographs of Dumas show him with relatively light skin, which would be expected from his family history.
However, this certainly isn’t how Google has depicted him. In what amounts to a severe case of digital blackface by Google, Dumas has been portrayed on their celebratory Doodle as having extremely dark skin. Matthew Cruickshank, the artist behind the Google Doodle, defended the blackwashing by pointing to Dumas’s heritage.
I really enjoyed illustrating Alexandre Dumas' Count Of Monte Cristo. He gave us such rich worlds to adapt and play with. Mine is just one of many versions. Chapeau sir! And yes- his paternal grandmother was of African descent. pic.twitter.com/NGnX7WV4XP
— Matthew Cruickshank (@MatthewCruicks4) August 28, 2020
Google has given Alexandre Dumas the digital blackface treatment in today's Doodle. They've portrayed the mixed-race author as far darker than he really was – a bad case of blackwashing history! pic.twitter.com/neB1EiKdxY
— Jack Hadfield 👍🇬🇧 (@JackHadders) August 28, 2020
No news articles covering the Doodle slideshow, forced upon all Chrome users when they open a new tab, have mentioned the inaccuracy of the depiction of Dumas by Cruickshank and the attempt at blackwashing history by Google.