Les Hommes noirs was designed by the celebrated designer and glass manufacturer Emile Gallé in collaboration with the painter and sculptor Victor Prouvé. In a letter to Prouvé, Gallé wrote that, with Les Hommes noirs, he aimed to expose "fanaticism, hatred, lies, prejudice, and hypocrisy." The vase's decoration represents a call for justice, for civil rights, and for the defense of the unjustly accused. Its subject refers to the intense political, judicial, and social scandal that surrounded a French Jewish military officer named Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935). The Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906) involved a wrongful conviction of treason and a subsequent cover-up that divided French society for over a decade.