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Deborah Jenson

president of Haiti from 1818 to 1843, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, though no definitive date exists for his birth. It may have been in 1776 (notably on any of several possible dates within the month of February that year), or 1780, or some point in between; the frequently cited date of 1775 appears to derive from an early faulty transcription of the 1776 date. Boyer’s white father was a prosperous storekeeper and tailor in Port-au-Prince. Boyer’s mother was consistently identified as African—often as Congolese—which suggests that she came to Saint-Domingue late enough in life to retain a “foreign” cultural status. Boyer himself was described as relatively dark-skinned for the “mulatto” class. His father’s trade and his mother’s African identity signal the large variety of socioeconomic and socioethnic backgrounds encompassed by the term “mulatto” in his time. Boyer may have been educated in France as a boy.

Boyer ...

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Paulette Poujol-Oriol

A fair-skinned mulatto, Jean-Pierre Boyer was born free in 1776, in what was then the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). Following independence in 1804, Haiti remained divided into southern and northern regions. In 1818 Boyer succeeded Alexandre Pétion, who had ruled southern and western Haiti since 1806. Rivals and conspiracies notwithstanding, Boyer managed to unite the country and governed for twenty-five years. During his presidency he achieved diplomatic recognition for the new republic in controversial negotiations with France, and attempted to institute far-reaching economic and legal reforms.

As a young adult, Boyer had served with the French army. When the Haitian Revolution broke out, splitting the country apart, he initially sided with the forces of André Rigaud, which tried to establish a mulatto-controlled republic in the south. With Rigaud's defeat by François Dominique Toussaint Louverture the military commander of Haiti s black ...

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Gregory Freeland

Many of the details about Henri Christophe's early life are unclear, but it is thought that he was born a slave on the British-ruled island of Grenada. At a young age he ran away and eventually became the property of a French naval officer and then of a planter on what was then the French-ruled island of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). In 1779 Christophe was part of an armed group sent by the French to assist Americans in defending Savannah, Georgia, against the British. Christophe, at that time a slave orderly, may have fought in a battalion led by the Marquis du Rouvrary; he was wounded in a conflict in Savannah, Georgia, in October 1779. Christophe then returned to Saint-Domingue, and some time during this period he purchased his freedom. By 1790 Christophe was part of a French militia force that overcame two Haitian rebel forces ...

Article

Dario A. Euraque

was born in San Juan de Flores, near Tegucigalpa, then the most important mining town of Honduras and the capital city of Honduras after 1880. The names of his parents are unknown, but he was the product of a colonial interracial extramarital relationship. Ferrara was born into the ethno-racial category of pardo, a mixture of indigenous and African descent; a very large minority of the non-Indian population of Honduras during this period were pardos. In 1820, on the eve of the struggles for independence from Spain, Ferrerra became one of the first non-Europeans to enjoy electoral citizenship, when colonial authorities granted the right to vote to pardos and others of similar ethno-racial descent. The involvement of non-Europeans and mixed-race people in the military struggles of the period was a factor in the granting of increased rights in Honduras and many other parts of Latin America.

Ferrera ...

Article

James W. Russell

major leader of the Mexican War of Independence and second president in 1829, was born on 4 April 1782 in Tixla in the Mexican state that carries his name today. A notable accomplishment of his brief eight-month term in office was his 15 September 1829 decree abolishing slavery.

Guerrero’s mixed ethnic background included African along with Indian and Spanish ancestry, and he had a dark complexion with African features. His enemies referred to him as “El Negro” (though “negro” in the Mexican context can also be a term of endearment, when his enemies applied it to him, they meant it as a racist pejorative). Others referred to him as a mulatto. One biographer, Theodore Vincent, called him Mexico’s “first black Indian president.”

During the colonial period Mexico s population was divided into four large racial groupings Spaniards Indians African slaves and mixed with numerous sub groupings The Spanish descended ...

Article

Guerrero was born in Tixtla, now a part of Guerrero, the state in Mexico named for him after his death. He was of mixed race, probably descended from Africans, Spaniards, and Native Americans. His dark complexion earned him the nickname El Negro. For most of his early life he lived in the region where he was born and worked as a wage laborer and a teamster.

In 1810 Mexico's war of independence erupted. Guerrero sympathized with rebel demands, including an end to the restrictive caste system. In December 1810, when José María Morelos y Pavón called for troops in south central New Spain (present-day Mexico) to join him in the revolt, Guerrero enlisted in the rebel forces. He soon was leading troops in the field and by 1812 had become a lieutenant colonel. During 1812 he attacked port towns on the Pacific coast and helped capture ...

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Paulette Poujol-Oriol

Alexandre Sabès Pétion was the son of a French colonist and a freeborn mulatto (of African and European descent) woman. It is unclear why he used the name Pétion instead of his father's surname, Sabès. The name Pétion was derived from the nickname “Pitchoun” (little lad). Pétion's father did not recognize his son as his own because of the boy's dark skin, but did send Pétion to France to be educated.

At the age of eighteen Pétion joined the colonial militia, and in 1791, with the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution, he joined the rebellion sparked by the slave rebel Boukman. Pétion initially fought under the black forces led by François Dominique Toussaint Louverture, which managed to expel a British invasion of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic and eventually assume complete control over the island After this victory however discord ...

Article

Julia Gaffield

was born in Port-au-Prince in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, to a mixed-race mother and a white father, Pascal Sabés, who refused to recognize Alexandre as his son. Alexandre Pétion is one of the founders of the independent country of Haiti and was president of the southern Republic of Haiti between 1807 and 1818. During the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), Pétion fought for both the French and the rebel armies, but played a key role in helping the rebels defeat the French in the final war of independence (1802–1804).

As a child, he was not sent to school but instead was trained as a silversmith. Despite the fact that his father would not legally recognize him, Alexandre used his last name but also added “Pétion” to it—Pichoun meaning my little one having been his childhood nickname When he was 18 years old he joined ...

Article

Mariana Isabel Lorenzetti

was born Bernardino de la Trinidad González Rivadavia y Rivadavia on 20 May 1780 in Buenos Aires. He was the son of Bernardino Benito González Rivadavia, a wealthy lawyer, and his wife, María Josefa Rodríguez y Ribadeneira.

Although traditional historiography claims that Rivadavia’s family was of Spanish descent, some investigators have argued that he had African ancestors (Rogers, 1972). There are indeed some indicators that may point to African descent in the family, such as the pejorative nickname used by his political opponents, “Chocolate Doctor,” and frequent references to his dark skin.

However, there is no definitive proof as to whether his ancestors were of African origin or not. As indicated by various scholars, the identification or self-identification of a person as someone of African descent, including a figure such as Bernardino Rivadavia, was greatly undermined by the cultural tendency to “whitewash” one’s history (see Frigerio, 2006 ...

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Raymond Pierre Hylton

college administrator, entrepreneur, and first and sixth president of Liberia, was born either in Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Petersburg, Virginia, the son of James Roberts and Amelia (maiden name unknown). A persistent rumor that his father was an unidentified white man remains no more than mere speculation. James Roberts and his wife were freed people and had seven surviving children. The family ran a boat and trading business that plied the James River. The Robertses probably lived for a while in Norfolk and later moved to Petersburg, where Joseph alternately worked for his father and in a barbershop owned by the Reverend William Nelson Colson, an African American minister and businessman. The Colson business was located at Wythe and Sycamore streets—an historical marker indicates the actual site.

By 1829 James Roberts had died leaving considerable financial assets and property in Petersburg Joseph as the eldest child ...

Article

Peter J. Duignan

fifth president of the Republic of Liberia, was born in Newark, Ohio, the son of John Roye, a wealthy merchant. His mother's name is unknown. His father died in 1829, leaving some personal property and land to Roye. He went to public schools in Ohio, attended Oberlin College, and taught for a few years in Chillicothe. He also tried his hand as a sheep trader and shopkeeper in various parts of the Midwest. After his mother died in 1840 he was influenced by the emigration movement to escape American prejudice. He rejected the idea of going to Haiti and instead traveled to Liberia in 1846 just before an independent republic was installed there in July 1847, taking with him a stock of goods.

At the time of Roye s arrival the new republic faced a variety of ills The dominant Americo Liberians remained a small minority threatened ...

Article

Faustin Elie Soulouque was elected president of Haiti by the National Assembly, under the belief that he could be easily manipulated. On the contrary, Soulouque established a strong and repressive regime. In 1849 he unsuccessfully attempted an invasion of the neighboring Dominican Republic which had won its independence from ...