H-France Salon Vol. 7 (2015), Issue 4, #1

"Thing of the Day"

Pierre Nègre Playing Cards
Submitted by Sue Peabody, Washington State University

Pierre Le Nègre” is a child’s card game, played a little like “Go Fish,” that I found at a Flea Market in Paris a few years ago. Examples of other editions of the game can be found online. The manufacturer, Jeux Jouets Français (JJF), published the game between 1904 and 1930. “Zwarte Piet” or “Black Peter” is a Dutch folk character, the companion of Saint Nicholas, portrayed in medieval Flemish art who was resurrected by a Dutch author, Jan Schenkman , in the nineteenth century as a black man. (Today the image is seen as racist and has attracted demonstrations against Dutch blackface during the Christmas holidays.) A third game, “Sept Familles,” has similar colonial content but different rules (the object being to line up the cards, left to right, in the correct order, based on matching the illustrations). The game involves matching pairs, with the player left holding Black Peter as the loser of the game. 

The following questions might be used to teach with these objects in a class on French colonization, material culture, childhood, education. What other questions or contextualization would you suggest?


What message does structure or rules of the game suggest about blackness? 

Compare the two editions of “Pierre le Nègre.” What messages do the two games suggest about colonialism? 

What do the cards from “Sept Familles” suggest about French ideas about culture, race and ethnicity in first half of the twentieth century? 

Please add your comments to the discussion blog beneath the images

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