Napoleon's legacy divides France on 200th anniversary of his death

Napoleon's legacy divides France on 200th anniversary of his death.

5/6/2021 9:28:00 PM

Napoleon's legacy divides France on 200th anniversary of his death.

While most modern French leaders have shunned paying tribute to the divisive general, Macron broke with convention and urged the country to confront its history.

which spurred protests on French streets and across several European capitals.In 1802 Napoleon restored slavery by decree in the French Caribbean, reversing its abolition there in 1794. Revolts were violently put down while white landowners and the expanding French empire got richer.

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Black historians and commentators say that aspect of his legacy remains unaddressed inFrance, which still grapples with its colonial past and charges of deep-rooted inequality and racism toward its minority and immigrant populations. The heated debate comes days ahead of the country's commemoration of the abolition of slavery in France, marked annually on May 10.

Download thefor breaking news and politicsMacron described Napoleon's decision toreinstate slaveryas a betrayal, but critics were still dismayed by his tributes to the man who helped shape modern-day France."This commemoration is a national shame," said Louis-Georges Tin, an activist and honorary president of the Representative Council of France's Black Associations."When the president of a country pays tribute to a man who committed so many crimes and a crime against humanity, that says a lot about the moral standards in the country."

Tin, who was born on the, said Macron's actions caused"offense" not only to Black people in France and overseas but to all those who consider themselves"humanist."In July, protesters inMartinique, a French territory, tore down a statue of Napoleon's empress, Josephine, who was born to a wealthy colonial family on the island.

"Napoleon was instrumental in creating the roots of racism and discrimination in France, he was uncontestably a racist,", author of"Napoleon's Crimes," told NBC News."And as for slavery, other countries had slavery, too, but France under Napoleon is the only country to reinstate it."

But for Peter Hicks, head of international affairs at theFondation Napoléon, a Paris-based research organization, the emperor was a man of his time and should be viewed in historical context."The thing about the slavery episode in the Napoleonic epic is, it's so tangential," Hicks told NBC News.

Napoleon was not a racist, he added, and had"no real interest in the idea of color." He instead thought mostly in terms of power, politics and order, Hicks said."History is complex, it's difficult and strange, and Napoleon is part of that, for good and for bad," Hicks said, citing the general's outsize influence on global affairs from Chile to Russia.

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"He's so quintessential to the creation of France, you might not like it but you can't not look at it Read more: NBC News »

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