Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, also known as Alexandre Dumas born on March 25,1762 was a general in Revolutionary France and the highest-ranking person of color of all time in a European army.
He was the first person of color in the French military to become brigadier general, the first to become divisional general, and the first to become general-in-chief of a French army. Dumas shared the status of the highest-ranking black officer in the Western world only with Toussaint Louverture (who in May 1797 became the second black general-in-chief in the French military) until 1975, when the American Daniel “Chappie” James Jr became a four star General in the United States Air Force, the closest American equivalent of Général d’Armée, Dumas’ highest rank.
Born in Saint-Domingue, Alexandre Dumas was the son of a white French nobleman and an enslaved mother of African descent. He was born into enslavement because of his mother’s status but was also born into nobility because of his father’s. His father brought him to France in 1776 for education and help him enter the French military at age 24, and by age 31 Alexandre Rose to the position of the General-in-Chief of the French Army of the Alps in command of 53,000 troops.
Dumas played a pivotal role in the French Revolutionary Wars, however he clash with supreme commander Napoleon Bonaparte on a failed French attempt to conquer Egypt and the Levant. In March 1799, Dumas left Egypt on an unsound vessel, which was forced to put aground in the southern Italian Kingdom of Naples, where he was taken prisoner and spent almost 2 years in a dungeon.
Returning to France after his release, he and his wife had a son, Alexandre Dumas, who became one of France’s most widely read authors of all time. The novelist Dumas’ most famous characters were inspired by the life of General Dumas. Dumas was not awarded “the pension normally allocated of generals” by the French government and he struggled to support his family repeatedly writing to Napoleon Bonaparte, seeking back-pay from the military, but to no avail. He died of stomach cancer when his son Alexandre was three years old.