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James H. Sweet

was born around 1710 in the Mahi region of the modern-day West African country of Benin. Álvares spent his youth in a Vodou community dedicated to the earth spirit Sakpata. Álvares’s parents, Afnaje and Oconon, held positions of leadership in this community, a status Domingos inherited from them. Álvares rose to prominence in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world after being enslaved in Africa, transported to colonial Brazil, and eventually prosecuted by the Portuguese Inquisition in Lisbon.

During the late 1720s, Álvares experienced first-hand the rise of the Dahomean Empire under the leadership of Agaja (c. 1673–1740), the ruling monarch from 1718 to 1740 As King Agaja s military expanded into new territories Álvares witnessed the death and displacement of countless refugees In the midst of this crisis Álvares s parents died and he took over leadership of their healing community Like maroon communities in the Americas Álvares s village ...

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LeGrace Benson

was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1946 to parents whose given names are not definitively known His carpenter father died when he was 5 years old leaving Bazile and five siblings in the care of their widowed mother Reared as a devout Catholic Bazile remained so throughout his life attending church each Sunday until his final days Bazile lived most of his life on Rue des Césars in Port au Prince where he arrived with his mother and siblings at a time when the neighborhood was becoming densely populated Many people migrating from the countryside into the city in search of work during this time were Vodou practitioners who were also baptized as Catholics Bazile went to the local Catholic school with the intention of becoming an accountant He excelled in mathematics and geometry skills that he would put to use a few years later as an artist He ...

Article

Benjamin Hebblethwaite

was born on 25 August 1939 in Haiti. Over the course of his career, Beauvoir contributed to the sciences, established a prominent Vodou temple and cultural organization, and published cornerstone volumes of Vodou sacred literature. His publishing solidified his status as the most influential Vodou priest of his generation. Son of one of the first black graduates from Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia, Beauvoir graduated from City University of New York with a degree in chemistry in 1958 and earned a degree in biochemistry in 1962 from the Sorbonne in Paris. As a chemist he worked at Cornell Medical Center in New York City on the synthesis of metabolic steroids; later he worked on the synthesis of hydrocortisone from plants.

In 1973, Beauvoir’s nonagenarian grandfather, an oungan (Vodou priest), designated him as the head of the family religion prior to his death. In 1974 Beauvoir and his ...

Article

LeGrace Benson

was born in the Bel Air district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a center of Vodou spiritual activity where a number of artists created sequined ritual flags and bottles essential to Vodou ceremonies. He grew up in the lakou (extended family) of the oungan (Vodou priest) Ceus “Tibout” St. Louis, leader and primary teacher of sequin artists. Spiritually precocious, Cédor became an oungan while still in his teens, and set up his own Vodou ounfò (temple) close to that of his mentor, Tibout. He continued to serve Tibout’s ounfò as manager and director, and was leader of a noted Rara band, a traditional Haitian musical genre. He married Marquis St. Louis, Tibout’s daughter, who was also skilled in the delicate stitching required to make the ritual objects.

By the time of Cédor s childhood and youth the Bel Air district once a semirural section of the rapidly expanding capital of Haiti was ...

Article

Philippe Girard

was a rebel chief and Vodou priest of African origin who played a leading role in the western province of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) during the Haitian Revolution.

Two distinct groups can be identified within the rebel leadership of the Haitian Revolution. The first, often composed of people who were Caribbean-born and had been elite slaves of free people of color prior to the revolution, fought French planters but did not oppose the plantation system itself; Toussaint Louverture was a typical example. The second, often composed of African-born slaves, was less European-leaning in its cultural outlook and more fundamentally opposed to plantation agriculture. Elite mixed-race historians in post-independence Haiti tended to minimize the achievements of the latter faction (including Derance), resulting in a de facto silencing of the Haitian Revolution’s more radical actors.

According to one contemporary Derance began his life as a black servant on the Derance plantation He first surfaced ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

voodoo queen, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Charles Laveaux, a freeman of color who owned a grocery store in that city, and Marguerite D'Arcantel, a freewoman of color about whom very little is known, although it is rumored that she was a spiritualist or root doctor. Certain sources erroneously claim that Charles Laveaux was a prominent white planter and politician. He was not, but he was probably the illegitimate son of Don Carlos (or Charles) Trudeau, a high-ranking official in Spanish-controlled Louisiana and the first president of the New Orleans City Council when the United States purchased Louisiana in 1803 The historical record which in Marie Laveaux s case is exceptionally imprecise provides several spellings of her surname often leaving out the x but most archival records suggest that Charles Laveaux used that version of his name and that this spelling was ...