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Abolition of Slavery at the Hôtel de la Marine

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

Abolition of Slavery at the Hôtel de la Marine

Cover image: Tapestry by Gs. Cozette at Hôtel de la Marine (detail)
© Entrée to Black Paris

"In February 1848, Victor Schœlcher was appointed under-secretary of state for the colonies and for measures concerning slavery by François Arago, minister of the colonies during the French Second Republic. Over the two months that followed, he [Schœlcher] worked on drawing up the abolition decree, which was signed in the minister’s office on the first floor of the Hôtel de la Marine at the building’s corner where Rue Royale meets Place de la Concorde."

~ Hôtel de la Marine Web site

During last weekend's Journées de Patrimoine, the newly renovated Hôtel de la Marine was opened to the public.  Tom and I took the opportunity to visit the former home of the French naval ministry to see the space where the decree that definitively abolished slavery in the French colonies was drafted and signed.

We entered the courtyard at Place de la Concorde and were able to skip the long line of people waiting to enter because we had reserved in advance.

Hôtel de la Marine - Place de la Concorde entrance
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Entry queue viewed from above
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We collected our headphones in the ticketing area, went through security, and entered the building for the Grand Tour.

Ticket and headphone area
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Entrance for Grand Tour
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The building is absolutely splendid! 

Glass roof over courtyard
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Stairwell up to the apartments, salons, and loggia
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Garde-meuble office
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Inlaid wood floors
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Dining room
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Bedroom of Mme Thierry de Ville d’Avray
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The only décor that presents images of black people are two Gobelins tapestries.  One is called Le Chameau (The Camel) - it is signed Cozette fils.  The other, the name of which I have not been able to find, is signed Gs. Cozette.  They are in the Salon de Jeux, which is one of the last stops on the ~90-minute tour.

Gobelins tapestries
(Le Chameau is at the left.)

© Entrée to Black Paris

Le Chameau (detail)
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Le Chameau signature and date - Cozette.fils 1795
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After visiting the Salon de Jeux, you come to the Salon Arago, where the abolition decree was drafted and signed.  It is resplendent!  

Salon Arago
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Four emblems displaying anchors enhance the ceiling at the base of the enormous chandelier that lights the room.

Chandelier in Salon Arago
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At the end of the tour, a digital display on a large round table in the former office of the chief of staff presents the story of famous French sailors who made history with the French navy.  (Unfortunately, considerable glare diminishes the viewer's experience of this and other digital displays on the tour.)

One of the videos shown on this table presents the French slave trade and the abolition movement.

Opening frame for slavery video
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Victor Schœlcher frame in slavery video
© Entrée to Black Paris

The final stop on the tour is the loggia, from which you have a sweeping view of Place de la Concorde, the Jeu de Paume museum in the Tuileries Garden, and of course, the Eiffel Tower.

Jeu de Paume museum in the Tuileries Garden
© Entrée to Black Paris

Place de la Concorde and the Eiffel Tower
© Entrée to Black Paris

Hôtel de la Marine is found at 2, place de la Concorde.  The place is the starting point for Entrée to Black Paris' On the Grandest of Avenues tour, which is one of our most popular private walking tours.  If you'd like to experience this tour (which does not include a visit to Hôtel de la Marine), write to me at paris@entreetoblackparis.com least six weeks in advance of your trip so we can organize one for you and your party!