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Joshua H. Clough

president of Haiti from 21 December 1902 until 2 December 1908, was born in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, to an elite and politically powerful family on 2 August 1820. He was the son of Nord Alexis and Blézine Georges. The former had served as a prominent official in Henri Christophe’s kingdom, and the latter was one of Christophe’s illegitimate daughters. When he was 19 years old, Alexis began his long and distinguished military career, shortly before his father’s death in 1840. He served first in the infantry of Haiti’s 22nd Regiment before serving as an officer in the gendarmerie of the Acul-du-Nord in 1843. From 1845 to 1846, he served as the military aide-de-camp to President Jean-Louis Pierrot. Alexis married Pierrot’s daughter Marie Louise in 1845, further securing his influential position in Haiti’s northern black upper class established under Christophe.

During this period he was also ...

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Dario A. Euraque

was born in the Department of Olancho, in eastern Honduras, in the municipality of Juticalpa. His parents were Jorge Bonilla and Dominga Chirinos. He received a rudimentary primary education in the 1850s, and enjoyed no formal high school, much less a university education. We know almost nothing of his infancy and youth, and his black and mulatto ethno-racial background are only discreetly mentioned by his major biographers. However, there is no doubt that General Bonilla was phenotypically black or mulatto, in addition to having been born in a town whose ethno-racial background was the same.

According to Jose Sarmiento, the most important historian of Olancho and Juticalpa, Bonilla’s city of birth, in 1810 in the parish registries we find that nearly all the population is registered as mulatto One of General Bonilla s lesser known biographers also affirms as much Moreover his most important biographer characterizes him as dark ...

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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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Robert Ross

South African lawyer and politician, was born in Cape Town on 6 December 1823. His father, Christoffel J. Brand, a member of a leading Cape family, was a noted journalist and parliamentarian and the first speaker of the Cape Parliament in 1854. Brand Sr. had presented a doctoral thesis to Leiden University in 1820 on the rights of colonists, which the British might have considered treasonable if it had not been written in Latin. By the 1840s he, along with a number of his fellow Dutch-speaking settlers, decided to cooperate with British rule, believing, accurately as it would turn out, that they would be able to dominate democratic institutions in the colony when they were eventually granted.

Jan, as he was known, followed his father to Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he studied law, and thereafter he was admitted to the British Bar. In 1849 ...

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Lowell W. Gudmundson

who held effective dictatorial power in that country from 1839 until his death in 1865, was born in 1814. Carrera’s father was a mule driver, and his mother a domestic servant and later a market stall vendor in Guatemala City. Rafael participated in the early independence–era conflicts as a 12-year-old drummer boy and saw armed conflict soon thereafter. At the time of his revolt he lived in east Guatemala, having married Petrona García Morales, the daughter of a local ranching family. The revolt he came to lead began in response to a cholera epidemic in 1837, spreading from this mixed-race peasantry of the east to the indigenous-dominated highlands of the west. Carrera’s initial armed movement was based in this Afro-descendant (pardo or mulato ranching population By overthrowing the local authorities in Guatemala he brought to an end their Liberal project for a Central American Confederation ...

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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 ...

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Angie Colón Mendinueta

was born in San Francisco de Cara, in the state of Aragua on 22 August 1841. The son of Leandro Crespo and María Aquilina Torres, he was also known as “The Tiger of Santa Inés” and “El Taita” (Daddy). Although the evidence is not conclusive, several sources have suggested that Crespo was of partial African descent. Writing in 1892, the US ambassador to Venezuela described Crespo as a “mulatto,” while the modern historians Winthrop R. Wright (1993) and George Reid Andrews (2000) have claimed that Crespo, like many nineteenth-century Venezuelans, and several South American politicians of that era, was of partial African descent (see Wright, 1993, pp. 66–67). During his youth he lived in Parapara, a plains town in the state of Guárico, where he learned to read and write.

In 1858 at the age of 17 Joaquín began his military career ...

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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 ...

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Matthew J. Smith

from 1859 to 1867, was born in the coastal town of Anse-à-Veau in southwest Haiti on 19 September 1806, two years after Haitian independence. Geffrard’s pedigree had fixed his career as a military man. His father, Nicolas, was a renowned general from the same region who died a few months before Geffrard was born. His mother, Marguerite Geffrard (née LeJeune), was born in Saint-Domingue in the early 1770s. When Geffrard was an infant, his mother married another high-ranking officer, Colonel Laurent Fabre, who adopted Geffrard and whose name he carried. He became a soldier at 15, and by the age of 37 he was a commander in the important southern city of Les Cayes.

Geffrard s political emergence paralleled the rise of political instability in mid nineteenth century Haiti Following the fall of the long term president Jean Pierre Boyer a coup that Geffrard participated in there were ...

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Fabre-Nicolas Geffrard was a general in the Haitian army during the reign of Faustin Elie Soulouque. He participated in Soulouque's unsuccessful effort to invade the Dominican Republic in 1849. In 1859 Geffrard led the insurrection which deposed Soulouque, and subsequently assumed the presidency. In 1867 he was ...

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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 ...

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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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April J. Mayes

later known as Lilís, was born Hilarión Level on 21 October 1845 in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, the son of Josefa Level, an immigrant from St. Thomas (then in the Danish Virgin Islands) and D’Assas Heureaux from Haiti. Puerto Plata, located on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, was a dynamic center of commerce and migration, but little is known about Lilís’s early years there. He was of African descent on both his mother’s and father’s sides, and of French descent on his father’s side. His class and racial origins contributed to the belief of some Dominicans that Lilís was of “low” birth.

Historian Mu-Kien Sang notes that when Heureaux became president in 1882, some residents of Puerto Plata exclaimed, “the boy who bathed Fransuá Dambruá’s dog, [is now] President” (Sang, 1996 p 10 Although some in Puerto Plata may have rejected Heureaux as being lower ...

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Mayda Grano de Oro

Born in poverty in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, to a Haitian father and a mother from the Antilles, Ulíses Heureaux was a principal political and military leader in the Restoration War along with Gregorio Luperón. This conflict, which significantly involved Afro-Dominicans in a fight for their sovereignty and against the reinstitution of slavery for the first time, resulted in Spain's final withdrawal from the Dominican Republic.

Heureaux, who was also known as Lilís, became one of the most important political figures of the nineteenth-century Dominican Republic. He began his political career as the military leader of Gregorio Luperón's Partido Azul (Blue Party), opposing Buenaventura Baez's Partido Rojo (Red Party) during Baez's six-year regime from 1868 to 1874. After this regime the presidency was limited to a two-year term, and between 1876 and 1882 the Blue and Red Parties alternated control of the government ...

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Mary Grace Albanese

was born on 2 March 1828 at Cap-Haïtien, the son of Jacques Sylvain Gélin Hyppolite, a leading Haitian politician, and a mother whose name is unknown. A member of the emerging black elite, Hyppolite received an education in Haiti before beginning his military career. In 1848 he was promoted to the rank of captain and by 1888 had risen to the rank of general.

That year, Hyppolite served as minister of agriculture and police in a provisional government established in the wake of former President Lysius Salomon’s flight from Haiti. Led by former President Pierre Théoma Boisrond-Canal, other members of the government included E. Claude, S. U. St. Armand, C. Archin, former Senator François D. Légitime (of Port-au-Prince), and General Séide Thélémaque (of Cap-Haïtien). Soon after this government revoked the 1867 Constitution, a divide developed between Thélémaque and Légitime. On 26 September 1888 Thélémaque was killed in an attempt ...

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David M. Carletta

In August 1888 a political uprising forced Lysius Salomon, the Haitian president, to sail off into exile after allegedly attempting to make himself president for life. In his absence, rebel leaders set up a provisional government, which included François D. Légitime and Louis Modestin Florvil Hyppolite. In the elections for a constituent assembly, only Port-au-Prince supported Légitime, who received prompt recognition from France, Haiti's former colonial ruler, as well as from England. A civil war followed, during which opponents of Légitime formed a government of their own under the leadership of Hyppolite at Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti.

The Democratic administration of President Grover Cleveland maintained a policy of neutrality in the conflict Légitime lacked an adequate supply of armaments and a sufficient number of ships to close off Haiti s northern ports The French unwilling to arouse the anger of the United States did not sell Légitime enough ...

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Fransjohan Pretorius

last president of the Transvaal (South African Republic), was born in the Cradock district of the Cape Colony on 10 October 1825. As a ten-year-old boy he accompanied his parents, Casper Kruger and Elsie Steyn, on the Great Trek of white emigrant farmers to the interior. Brought up in the traditional Calvinism, he linked the history of his own people with that of Israel and saw the Boers as the “chosen people.” He was called “Paul” for short.

The history of the Transvaal, which was granted independence by Great Britain through the Sand River Convention of 1852, is closely connected with the history of Paul Kruger. Elected field cornet in 1851 and commandant-general in 1863, he fought bravely in the campaigns against the black communities in the Transvaal. As a member of a Boer triumvirate, he attempted to reverse the British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 ...

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Maria Lucia Cacciato

commonly regarded as the republic’s only black chief executive. Carlos Antonio Mendoza was the grandson of Antonio Mendoza, a Venezuelan officer who fought in the wars for independence and who settled in Panama after the conflict. Carlos’s father, Juan Mendoza (1829–1876), served as head of Panama’s regional government and occupied important legislative and judicial positions during the Colombian period. Carlos Antonio Mendoza was born in Santa Ana, the traditional plebian barrio of Panama City. In 1869 he received a state scholarship to continue his education in Bogotá. Mendoza finished his secondary studies at the Colegio de San Bartolomé and pursued a law degree at the Colegio Mayor del Rosario. In 1875 he returned to Panama and soon became involved in politics identifying with the dominant Liberal Party and its most radical and popular elements Over the following years Mendoza held many public offices including archivist for Panama ...