Reading time: Less than 5 minutes.
–> Lire la version française de cet article
When I started my research on Marie-Thérèse Lucidor, I was sure to introduce you to a unusual woman of color: republican, patriot, police informer… But that was before I discovered the story of her parents because the story of her father André is also quite a history! So today I’m talking about a man with an amazing life: André dit Lucidor, born in Africa, slave in Martinique and swordsmanship in Paris.
From Africa to Martinique: from captivity to the king’s service.
According to a notarial deed, André dit Lucidor was 36 years old in 1754; he was therefore born around 1718. Pierre Bardin (1) states that a ‘subsequent document indicates that Lucidor, who came from Africa to Martinique, arrived in France where he always served the king. That means joining a regiment in which he would have acquired arms control and freedom after 7 years of service. If the date of arrival is unknown, as well as the name of the regiment (research in progress) it can reasonably be located between 1735 and 1745.’ More specifically, André was said to have been born in Azanda, a territory in north-central Africa.
In all likelihood, he had passed through Martinique as a slave; then he had joined a regiment and obtained his freedom as a result of his service to the king. But, of his life in Martinique, I found nothing (let’s face it, I didn’t look much either). His date of arrival, his life as a slave, his military service to regain his freedom, the date and modalities of his departure from the island… nothing, neither in the online sources, nor in the bibliography I was able to consult. Perhaps it was put at the service of the King on the occasion of the defence of the island against the English indeed it was traditionally called upon slaves provided with half a peg or a serp to enlarge the troops in time of war. Still, in 1745, André was in Paris.
André dit Lucidor, swordsmanship in Paris
Although we do not know the date of his arrival in France, we do know that André married at the church of Saint-Séverin (X)* in 1745. At about 27, André married Thérèse Charlotte Richard, a white woman. From his union with Thérèse Charlotte, André dit Lucidor had two daughters: Louise born in 1747 and the famous Marie-Thérèse born in 1749, both baptized in the church of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois (B).
Until 1777, such a union was still legal in the kingdom: it nevertheless remained uncommon. After 1777 and despite the ban, several unions of this type still took place as witnessed by the life of Louis Belard Saint-Silvestre et Jean-François Février highlighted by Julie Duprat (2).
But the most surprising thing is that Thérèse Charlotte Richard could well be a Martinican Creole. This is what Pierre Bardin assumes, because her daughter Marie-Thérèse later claimed ownership of property in Carbet, Martinique. There is indeed a Richard family at Le Carbet. To say that the union of a white Creole woman with an African slave, even if he had been freed, would have been an absolutely intolerable scandal on the island. The 2 lovers should have left the small territory to live their love story elsewhere. But for the moment, there is nothing to corroborate this hypothesis. Nor should we exclude the possibility that André was free even before leaving Martinique and that he was at the origin of a small property on the island. But if Thérèse Charlotte Richard were a white Creole from Martinique, her romance with André alone would be enough to make a film!
Not only had André Lucidor an unusual union, he also distinguished himself by his profession. In 1762, to respond to the declaration requirements of the Blacks of France, he had himself registered and said that he « lived in the Abbey of Saint Nicolas des champs where he showed how to make arms ». It is also specified that his freedom was registered before a notary by an act of 26 March 1750, a profession he already exercised in 1754. Indeed, André appears as a witness in an act of notoriety, is described as having 36 years, swordsmanship and remaining course Saint-Martin des Champs (M). We also discover that he can sign!
Two years later, André, « master in arms », was found at a house sale. On that day he and his wife bought a two-storey house (†) with furniture and an attached garden in Ménilmontant on the main street for £8500. He made it a well-attended weapons room until his death in 1771. André dit Lucidor thus leaves me with the impression of a brilliant black figure with a remarkable career path who had and took opportunities to promote his talents.
And you, do you know women or men uprooted from their African homeland, enslaved, regaining their freedom and living on 3 different continents in one lifetime?
*Representation of the symbols in orange on the 1771 map of Paris for an idea of the location.
(1) Like for the daughter Marie-Thérèse, most of the information I was able to read is the result of the work of Pierre Bardin whose notes are published in a bulletin of Genealogy and History of the Caribbean.
Bardin (Pierre), « LUCIDOR, ancien esclave, et sa fille Marie-Thérèse, à Paris », dans Généalogie et Histoire de la Caraïbe, numéro 227, Juillet-août 2009.
(2) In addition to the cases noted by Julie Duprat, the historian Gilbert Buti has eight unions between a man of colour and a white woman in the unions he noted in 1777 for the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Provence. The same is true for these unions between black men and white women in Aunis.
Gilbert Buti, « Gens de couleur et esclaves en Provence au XVIIIe siècle », Cahier des anneaux de la Mémoire, la méditerranée, no 13, 2010.
Olivier Caudron, « “Noirs, mulâtres ou autres gens de couleur” dans l’Aunis du XIIIe siècle », dans Mickaël Augeron et Olivier Caudron (dir.), La Rochelle, l’Aunis et la Saintonge face à l’esclavage, Paris, France, les Indes savantes, 2012, p. 177.
Archives and iconography (French)
Find the pretty Plan de la ville et des faubourgs de Paris divisé en ses vingt quartiers / par le Sr Robert de Vaugondy of 1771 on the site of the BNF.
The swords board is taken from Le Maistre d’armes, ou l’Abrégé de l’exercice de l’épée by sieur Martin (swordsmanship in Strasbourg). 1737. On the BNF website.
Bonus in English 😀
I invite you to visit this link The Greatest African American and Afro-American Martial Artists in History ; you can have a look at the iconography. There are magnificent illustrations of blacks in the art of combat such as those from Paulus Hector Mair’s book.