A School for Children of Color from the Colonies

The Republic has a short memory when it comes to the colonies. Who remembers that here, on the premises of the former Collège de la Marche, demolished during the Second Empire, the sons of the mixed-race deputy Jean-Baptiste Belley, and the son of the late free person of color Toussaint Louverture, rubbed shoulders with the son of Jacques-Pierre Brissot? First providing free public classes, the school was transformed in 1797 into the National Institution for the Colonies. “It is important to give colonists guarantees of national benevolence,” Roume, one of the Directory’s agents in Saint-Domingue, stated. In the summer of 1799, 20 young Creole students studied here at the government’s expense in the hopes of civilizing them through their contact with the best minds from mainland France. The experience would end in 1802, the year slavery was reinstituted in the colonies by Bonaparte, the future Napoleon I.

Collège de La Marche in 1858



19 rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève


The Panthéon and its neighborhood
Massacre at the Monastery

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Jean-Baptiste Belley, school parent and black revolutionary

Anne-Louis Girodet, Jean-Baptiste Belley, Deputy from Saint-Dominique at the Convention (1747-1805)

Jean-Baptiste Belley, whose son was sent to the National Institution for the Colonies, was the first black deputy in the history of France. How did he succeed in what seemed impossible only a few months before? Motivated by the slave rebellions, French officials were forced to abolish slavery in Saint-Domingue and organize elections, to which blacks, people of mixed race and whites could participate. At the end of the election, Belley was elected. He found himself in Paris a few months later in the National Convention along with the mixed-race deputy Mills and the white deputy Dufay and helped to abolish slavery for the first time in the history of France, on February 4, 1794.

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