Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Letters from Africa

Code Noir

The Code Noir was a decree passed by Louis XIV of France in 1685, affecting all the French colonies, such as Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) that were involved in the sugar trade.  It essentially codified slavery, eliminating slaves’ rights and defining them as property, made Roman Catholicism the only acceptable religion and ordered out all Jews (defined as “enemies of Christianity”).

Although there was some humanitarian intent, any benefit to slaves’ lives was minimal.  The decree remained in force until 1789 and the French Revolution.  The slaves of Haiti rebelled in 1791, gaining their freedom in 1804.


Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870), author of The Three Musketeers, is connected to Haiti.  His father, a famous general, was born there in 1762 (to a French soldier and a Haitian slave woman). Some argue that Dumas based The Count of Monte Cristo on his father.

Despite his success, Dumas was the victim of racism throughout his life.  He tackled the subject of colonialism only once, in a short novel Georges (1843), which he set in Mauritius. The cartoon below is titled: "The Quadroon Chef: Dumas concocting his bouillabaisse of romance."


The United States eventually created its own Code Noir: the One Drop Rule, which meant that anyone with "one drop" of African blood had to be considered Black. This unofficial rule was invented in the "free" northern states of the U.S. between 1830 and 1840, before spreading south. It had to be invented since inter-marriage had by this point eroded perceptible differences between White and Black. This led to the horrors of the Black Codes before and after the Civil War, the Jim Crow laws later in the century and the One Drop Rule laws in the early 20th century.

By 1927 it had become a huge problem for Hollywood, which created its "Don’ts and Be Carefuls," with miscegenation at #6 on the "Don'ts" and again in the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (the Hays Code). It read: " Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races) is forbidden."

Enough said.

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