Venus Noire

By Robin Mitchell, Manisha Sinha (editor), Richard S. Newman (editor) , Patrick Rael (editor)

Book cover of Venus Noire: Black Women and Colonial Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century France

Book description

Even though there were relatively few people of colour in post-revolutionary France, images of and discussions about black women in particular appeared repeatedly in a variety of French cultural sectors and social milieus. In Venus Noire, Robin Mitchell shows how these literary and visual depictions of black women helped to…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Venus Noire as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book had me in tears. It’s the story of Black women who lived in Paris and were scandalous not necessarily because of anything they did, but because of who they were.

Sarah Baartmann had a tragic life where she was exhibited as a sexual spectacle in the 1810s. Jeanne Duval was the mistress of the famous poet Charles Baudelaire and was vilified and blamed for all his problems – even though it’s clear that he was a hot mess. One reason that I love this book is that the author wrote it with such heart.

I try to avoid big statements when they end up on the internet, in case my opinion changes. But this is the best research book I have read; and I do not believe my opinion on this will change.

Through the lens of three black women who lived in nineteenth-century Paris, Mitchell takes us on a journey to uncover the history of French representations of black women, the history of displaying black bodies, and racism in France.

If you read one book to understand why Egyptian mummified bodies have been collected, displayed, retained, and studied, this is your book.


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