Juan Victor Séjour Marcou et Ferrand (1817–1874) was an American expatriate writer who worked in France. Though mostly unknown to later American writers, his short story "Le Mulâtre" ("The Mulatto") is the earliest known work of fiction by an African-American author.
On June 2nd, 1917 Juan Victor Séjour was born in New Orleans to a free mulatto father from Saint-Domingue, and Eloisa Phillippe Ferrand, a free African-American octoroon born in New Orleans. His parents were wealthy, and had him educated in a private school. At the age of nineteen he moved to Paris to continue his education and find work. There he met members of the Parisian literary elite, including Cyrille Bisette, publisher of the black-owned journal La Revue des Colonies. Bisette published "Le Mulâtre", Séjour's first work, in 1837. The story of a loyal slave exacting revenge on his cruel master/father for the death of his wife, "Le Mulâtre" contains an indictment of New World slavery that is found in none of Séjour's subsequent work.
Séjour then turned away from written fiction, and composed an ode to Napoleon in 1841 and the verse drama The Jew of Seville in 1844. The latter cemented his reputation as a playwright; he went on to write Richard III, a Shakespeare-inspired costume drama about Richard III of England that became his most acclaimed work. Towards the end of his life, however, Séjour's plays fell out of favor, resulting in a decline in his status.
Written in French, "Le Mulâtre" had little effect on American literature, and was not even translated into English until the late 20th century. Its condemnation of slavery, however, anticipates the work of later African-American writers such as Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.
The Brown Overcoat (1858)
- Sejour tended to leave racism discussions out of his plays, which can be exemplified in his play "The Brown Overcoat". It was a typical artificial comedy of the time period with witty comments and puns; however, it has nothing to do with race or greater issues of the world. This being so, Sejour is still know as a great African-American playwright who lead a successful career. (Black Theatre U.S.A.)
- Victor Séjour, Philip Barnard (translator). "The Mulatto." In Nellie Y. McKay, Henry Louis Gates (editors). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature Second edition, Norton, 2004. ISBN 0-393-97778-1
- Victor Séjour, Norman R. Shapiro (translator). The Jew of Seville. University of Illinois Press, 2002. ISBN 0-252-02700-0
- Victor Séjour. "Le Mulâtre". Revue des Colonies Paris, 3:9 (March 1837), pages 376-392.
- Brickhouse, Anna. Transamerican Literary Relations and the Nineteenth-Century Public Sphere. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
- Hatch, James V., and Ted Shine. Black Theatre USA: Plays by African Americans. New York: Free, 1996. Print.
- Works by or about Victor Séjour at Internet Archive (search optimized for the non-Beta site)
- "Le Mulâtre" (French)
- Piacentino, Ed. Seeds of Rebellion in Plantation Fiction: Victor Séjour's "The Mulatto". Southern Spaces. August 28, 2007