Olivier Le Jeune

Madagascar New France Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Olivier Le Jeune
Born1621 (1621)
Died1654 (aged 32–33)
Known forfirst African slave sold in Quebec

Olivier Le Jeune (died (1654-05-10)May 10, 1654) was the first recorded slave purchased in New France.[1][2]

Olivier was a young boy from Madagascar, believed to have been approximately 7 years of age when he was brought to the outpost of Quebec in New France by the English. He was sold to British commander David Kirke or one of his brothers.[3] Shortly afterwards, the boy was sold to Olivier Le Baillif, a French clerk in the pay of the English.

When Quebec was handed back to the French in 1632, Le Baillif left the colony and gave his slave to a Quebec resident, Guillemette Couillard.[1][2] The boy was educated in a school established by the Jesuit priest, Father Le Jeune. In 1632, the boy said to Father Le Jeune: "You say that by baptism I shall be like you: I am black and you are white, I must have my skin taken off to be like you." Nevertheless, Father Le Jeune baptised him as Olivier in 1633, after the colony's head clerk, Olivier Letardif. Olivier later adopted the name Le Jeune, the surname of the Jesuit priest.[4]

Olivier Le Jeune died on 10 May 1654.[1][2] It is believed that by the time of his death his official status was changed from that of slave to that of free "domestic servant".

Although he is often referred to as a black African from Madagascar, he may have been of partial Malay ancestry, which would have been quite common owing to the fact that Madagascar had been originally settled by diverse peoples of both South-East Asia as well as Africa.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Marcel Trudel. "Le Jeune, Olivier, a servant of Guillaume Couillard". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. We do not know whether Couillard treated him as a slave or set him free, for in the burial register Olivier is listed as a servant. No text certifies that he was a slave. His situation may very well have been the same as that of the Indian girls Charité and Espérance, whom Champlain was unable to obtain permission to take to France and whom Couillard adopted.
  2. ^ a b c Ethel M. G. Bennett. "Hebert, Guillemette (Couillard de Lespinay), daughter of Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. They must have formed part of a cosmopolitan household, for it contained also Olivier Le Jeune, a black boy from Madagascar brought up the river by the English, sold to Olivier Le Baillif, and given by him to the Couillard family.
  3. ^ "Black History Canada Timeline". Black History Canada. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  4. ^ Winks, Robin W., (1971). The Blacks in Canada : a history. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 0-300-01361-2. OCLC 140347.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)