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Excerpts from Old Solomon; or, A Slave Family in the Nineteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


Introduction: The Francophone Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Overlooked American Francophone Novel Le Vieux Salomon, Ou Une Famille D'Esclaves Au XIXE Siècle (OLD SOLOMON; OR, A Slave Family in the Nineteenth Century), by Charles Testut (1819-92), offers a contemporaneous description of slavery as a global commerce with international causes and effects. The novel's geographic scope, as well as Testut's interest in contrasting the life in the French Caribbean with slavery in the United States, makes Old Solomon an ideal text through which to examine the representation of economic and cultural circulation in the Americas. Old Solomon is a clear response to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), with some similar characters and situations, but is more trangressive and violent.

Little-Known Documents
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2010

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Translator's Notes

1. Three periods by themselves are Testut's punctuation. My omissions from the text are indicated by ellipsis points in brackets.

2. A cheap rum, distilled from molasses and refuse sugar.

3. Rose is using the familiar tu form of address, which she has never used with Augustin before.

4. Literally, four pickets or four posts. A form of punishment in which each limb was tied to a post so that the slave could not move during the beating.

5. Jacques de Molay, grand master of the Knights Templar, burned alive in France in 1314 for heresy. His dying words reportedly summoned his enemies, Philip IV of France and Pope Clement V, to meet him at God's tribunal within a year. Both men actually did die within a year.