Home > 21st Century, Colonialism, French Literature, Highly Recommended, History of France, Non Fiction, Taubira Christiane > 20 Books of Summer #6: Slavery Explained to My Daughter by Christiane Taubira – Educational and thoughtprovoking

20 Books of Summer #6: Slavery Explained to My Daughter by Christiane Taubira – Educational and thoughtprovoking

Slavery Explained to My Daughter by Christiane Taubira (2002 – revised in 2015) Original French title: L’esclavage raconté à ma fille.

I bought Slavery Explained to My Daughter by Christiane Taubira at the temporary bookshop set up in the Musée d’Orsay at the end of the exhibition Black Models: from Géricault to Matisse.

Christiane Taubira is a French politician who was, among other political achievements, Minister of Justice from 2012 to 2016. She a literature lover and a feminist, as mentioned in my billet here.

As you can see it on the cover of the book, she’s a black woman. She was born in Cayenne, in French Guiana, one of the French overseas departments. And yes, Cayenne is where Dreyfus was deported, in a penal colony. Taubira was deputy of French Guiana from 1993 to 2012.

She has always fought against racism and for France to deal with its history as a slave state. During her mandate she pushed for a law about slavery. The Loi n°2001-434 was promulgated on May 13th, 2001.

In its first article, the law states that France acknowledges that the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean and in the Indian Ocean and slavery perpetrated from the 15th century in the Americas, in the Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe and against Africans, indigenous people, Indians and Madagascans is a crime against humanity.

The second article imposes that the history of the slave trade and of slavery be taught in schools with sufficient details and taking into account historical sources from Europe and from Africa, America and the Caribbean.

The third article says that France will push the Council of Europe, the UN and other international organizations to acknowledge the slave trade and slavery as a crime against humanity too. France must also push for a common date to commemorate the abolition of slave trade and slavery.

No wonder Taubira’s favorite author is Toni Morrison. Slavery Explained to My Daughter reflects who she is: combative, passionate, factual and non-violent. As a French, she mostly pays attention France’s history. Through the exchange with her daughter, I learnt or reread about historical facts but what I liked the most is her views on the matter.

She says that a formal and legal acknowledgment of the crime is a necessity, a ground to build the future.

She also says that Europe fabricated false reasonings to justify their crime and that even then, people knew it was not right but clung to their arguments to ease their conscience and keep making money or annexing countries. So, saying it was legal at the time is not a valid argument to brush off the matter and not look at the facts as crimes.

She’s against financial reparations because it would sell her ancestors a second time and it would be a nightmare to organize. How much should be paid and to whom? For her, the only way to compensate now is to put money into programs that will guarantee that the descendants of former slaves and white people have equal opportunities in life. I’m with her. Compensation through investing in the future, that sounds fair to me.

Besides the European side of the issue, she also stresses on slaves’ side. She puts forward slaves who fought against their condition and also reminds us of the new culture that uprooted people created to survive. She takes pride in her ancestry and shares it with the reader.

I thought that Slavery Explained to My Daughter was an intelligent book. The facts and the emotions are there. It’s educational, optimistic but also realistic. There is still a lot to do. It will require a lot of education and political goodwill. I wish my kids studied this book in school.

This was another read for my 20 Books of Summer challenge.

  1. July 19, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    “saying it was legal at the time is not a valid argument”.That is something I agree with very strongly. There were always people against slavery, and against racism, so just because the majority went along with it is no reason to cut them any slack.
    I admire the way the law is framed, maybe one day a law like that will be incorporated into Australia’s Constitution as a beginning towards coming to a rapprochement with Indigenous people of Australia.
    Article 1. British settlement of Australia was an invasion of the nations of Indigenous people who had occupied Australia for 60,000 years…
    We can dream can’t we.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 19, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      That’s exactly what she says. There were always voices to say that slavery was not acceptable, even in those times.

      The text of the law is included in the book and I’m happy that there’s an obligation to incorporate this part of history in school programs.

      As for Australia, things are going the right way. It might happen but it needs political courage.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. July 19, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    She sounds like just the sort of powerful, articulate voice that this issue needs.


  3. July 19, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Sounds like this should be taught *everywhere*.


    • July 20, 2020 at 7:35 pm

      Yes. I really like that this law includes the obligation to teach about it.
      I’m not sure it’s well respected but it’ll progress, I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. July 20, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    So agree with this: Compensation through investing in the future, that sounds fair to me.


    • July 20, 2020 at 7:34 pm

      Me too. It’s totally fair and it brings hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. July 20, 2020 at 11:14 pm

    I recently saw a public television program on Queen Anne of Great Britain and her connection to the “slave” trade. She got sort of a monopoly on this horrible business for Great Britain. Because of this the British shipping industry grew and changed the course of British history. This was a very interesting program. I hope you can find it on the net.


  6. Vishy
    August 4, 2020 at 7:06 pm

    This looks like a fascinating book, Emma! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


    • August 5, 2020 at 7:51 am

      Very interesting and a good background for the Letter to Jimmy by Mabanckou that I read later.

      Liked by 1 person

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