The 1926 commercial and social structure of French Guiana, the French former penal colony in South America, differed little from that of Haiti a century before. White settlers owned or exploited everything and everyone. No one else was permitted to benefit greatly, and even the modest success of members of the mulatto, black, and Indian majority population were only permitted at the whim of the colony's rulers. Into this recipe for disaster appears a liberty-loving Frenchman named Jean Galmont. Not only is he helped by Guinean locals to get his feet on the ground, but he returns the favor by being almost mulishly color-blind. When he gains great success as the boss of a gold mine, he freely shares his wealth with his black and mulatto partners and the miners themselves. For a while he is riding high, but even his great wealth cannot win acceptance by the white rulers for schemes which would put blacks at the forefront of business or cultural dealings, and he is systematically hounded by them until he is destroyed. However, the stirrings of liberty which he spawned would prove to be more difficult to squash.
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