The French Revolution against Slavery: the Society of the Friends of Black People

It was here, at deputy Brissot’s house, where the “Society of the Friends of Black People” started assembling in 1788. Founded just before the Revolution based on the British model of the Society against Slavery, it attempted to convince deputies to abolish the slave trade and, eventually, slavery. It should be mentioned, that at this time, France owned Saint-Domingue: on this island in the West Indies, sugar was produced by nearly 500,000 slaves, who either survived inhuman conditions or died! The Society’s efforts ended up paying off in 1794, when French deputies cornered by the slave revolts that paralyzed the island, passed one of the first laws abolishing slavery in history.

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Freeing the slaves

On February 4, 1794, French deputies passed one of the first laws abolishing slavery in history! In many cities in France, celebrations were held: had not the French Revolution, once again, proved that it was more emancipating and universal than all the others? But the colonial imagination remained strong: entitled “Me free too,” the images that celebrated abolition gave a condescending and passive vision of former slaves. In reality, without their rebellions and their repeated demands, French deputies probably would never have made such a decision!

“Me Free Too,” 1794
“Me Free Too,” 1794
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