In general, the designation black in Europe, unlike in the United States, has been reserved for those of dark color, not the broader definition based on known black African ancestry.
Besides, in his France—as in all the other European societies—class was far more important than color, at least until the 20th century.
The great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, who took pride in his African ancestry, shrugged off aspersions cast on that score, but took great offense at those who did not respect the centuries of nobility on his father's side.
Is it legitimate, therefore, for a historian to count these two 19th-century literary giants as evidence of an African influence?
Has racial thought in Europe had the same degree of significance as in the United States?
In the In the following account, Professor Allison Blakely of Boston University describes the presence of blacks in Early Modern Europe.
His article reminds us that persons of African ancestry resided across Europe.
Their numbers ranged from a few hundred scattered across Germany, Scandinavia and Russia in the period between the 16th and 18th Centuries to approximately 150,000 on the Iberian peninsula.
His discussion below is excerpted from a larger article written for the American Historical Society in 1999.
There is a risk in asking 20th-century questions of earlier times because today's terms of discourse may not find a meaningful context there.