“Directing the Upcoming Generation’s Mind in the Right Direction”: Enslaved Children in the French Emancipation Project in Martinique, 1835-1848


  • Alix Rivière




Enslaved children were at the centre of France’s reform of colonial slavery from the mid-1830s to 1848. Youths, because of their malleability and supposed innocence, were deemed most deserving of moralizing efforts through religious and elementary education. When emancipation was conceivable by many on both sides of the Atlantic, enslaved children came to represent the future generation of French colonial citizens. Although slaveholders strongly opposed abolitionists’ efforts and despite the slow nature of metropolitan reforms, hundreds of enslaved children in Martinique benefitted from the rights they acquired in the last decade and a half of slavery, namely, partial access to religious and elementary education, family rights, and freedom.