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Article

Bernard Gainot

representative in the French Directory government (1795–1799), was born a slave around the year 1758 in Cap-Français, now Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. His master, Pierre Antoine, a free black man from Le Cap, who was an entrepreneur and mason, took Jean-Louis along with him as an aide-de-camp to the Savannah expedition in 1779 during the American War of Independence. More than five hundred free men of color, many of them from Le Cap, fought as allies of the Americans against the British. Upon his return, Jean-Louis was freed for an amount of £300, according to the notarial deed dated 3 May 1783, as a reward for his faithful service to Antoine.

The slave Jean Louis then became Jean Louis Annecy a surname probably originating from the designation of a house often found on the plains of the Cape and frequently spelled Ansy He may have been the owner of ...

Article

Rob Garrison

José Antonio Aponte, a free black man, worked as a carpenter and a wood carver in Havana, Cuba, before taking the role of revolutionary leader. Like many other Afro-Cubans in the early 1800s, he was discontented with the continuation of slavery and Spanish dominance that kept blacks from freedom. Afro-Cubans had already supported an unsuccessful independence movement in 1810, and had their hopes raised when Spanish courts briefly considered ending slavery. Once this proposal was rejected, blacks knew that freedom could be achieved only through their own means. Aponte seized this opportunity and proceeded to gather both the free and enslaved blacks of Havana in 1811 to form the Central Revolutionary Junta. The group quickly expanded and established smaller units throughout Cuba. Aponte solicited the help of Haitian general Jean François, who promised support for the proposed revolt.

Aponte s intention was not only to end Afro ...

Article

Eduardo R. Palermo

was dedicated to defending the dispossessed and distributing land obtained from anti-revolutionary landowners during the revolution. Benítez, also known as “El Pardo Encarnación,” was likely born in Soriano around 1770. He was one of the leaders under General José Gervasio Artigas (the “father” of the República Oriental del Uruguay) on the southwestern coast of the Uruguayan territory during the revolution that led to independence from the Spanish Crown (1811–1820). In this capacity, Benitez became known for his devotion to the ideals of the revolution. Endowed with a great gift for communication, Benitez traveled throughout the country during that period, distributing land, especially in the area of Cuchilla Grande of Soriano. With the application of the Regulation of Lands and Landowner Development enacted on 10 September 1815 by the Provincia Oriental Western Province government the revolutionaries planned to supply farms to local citizens in order to settle ...

Article

Boukman  

Paulette Poujol-Oriol

The man known as Boukman was born a slave in Jamaica, at that time a British colony in the Caribbean. No one knows for certain whether Boukman was his real name. He apparently learned to read and write, and always carried a book with him. Thus he acquired the nickname “Boukman,” meaning the man with a book, or the one who knows. It is thought that this was a man of knowledge for his epoch—a n'gan (in Haitian Creole a hougan), that is, a priest of Haiti's African-derived Vodou religion. Giant in stature, with a Herculean vigor, he was sold to a certain Turpin, the owner of a plantation in French-controlled Saint-Domingue (later to become Haiti). Appreciating Boukman's strength, his master gave him authority over his fellow slaves as a field commander. Boukman was also appointed a cocher coachman to drive his master about in his fancy ...

Article

In 1795, Joseph Chatoyer instigated a revolt of the Garinagu against the British on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent the original home of the Garinagu Chief Chatoyer was killed during combat against British forces and the Garinagu were deported to Roatán Island off the coast of Honduras ...

Article

Stewart King

was a free man of mixed race from the northern province of Saint-Domingue, the future Haiti. His family owned several dozen slaves and over a hundred acres of farmland. He was a military veteran who served in the American Revolution and in the colonial militia. During the early stages of the Haitian Revolution, he and Vincent Ogé led a free colored uprising in 1790.

Chavannes was born in 1748 in Grand-Rivière du Nord, a mountain valley located near the border with the Spanish colony of Saint-Domingue, the future Dominican Republic. The region was experiencing rapid economic growth in his youth, as coffee became an important crop. His parents were both members of prominent free mixed-race families in the region, and they built a prosperous coffee operation. Upon his father’s death before 1783 Jean Baptiste became the manager of the family s properties He was able to give his ...

Article

Johnhenry Gonzalez

was born into slavery in 1767, probably on the island of Grenada. As with the other former-slave leaders of the Haitian Revolution, Henri Christophe’s early life remains shrouded in obscurity. Like Boukman Dutty, the original leader of the August 1791 slave uprising, Christophe was smuggled into Saint Domingue during the late eighteenth century as French colonists partially fed their growing demand for slaves by illegally importing them from surrounding Caribbean colonies.

As a child Christophe was sold to a slave owner in Cap Français, the principal port in the French colony of Saint Domingue. Decades later, when he rose to become the king of northern Haiti, he rechristened the town Cap Henri.

It is possible that Christophe had his first military experience in the American Revolution Although he was still a boy at the time many historians contend that he served among the hundreds of free men of color ...

Article

Nathalie Pierre

born Dédée Bazile, was also known as Défilée la folle (madwoman) and was born enslaved in Cap-Français (now Cap-Haïtien) in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), to unknown parents. She is remembered for burying the revolutionary leader, and independent Haiti’s first ruler, Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

Some historical accounts pinpoint Défilée’s rape and torture by her enslaver at age 18 as the genesis of her madness. Défilée was homeless and publicly spoke to invisible beings, possibly lwas (spirits) of Vodou, which is a syncretic religious system incorporating West African and Catholic beliefs. These actions defied emerging social conventions and contributed to her reputation as la folle, the madwoman. It is possible, however, that the twelve-year anticolonial war against France had much to do with Défilée’s seemingly odd behavior. The arrival of the French general Donatien Rochambeau in Cap Français in 1802 dramatically shifted the course of the Haitian ...

Article

Stewart King

of Guadeloupean resistance to the reestablishment of slavery and direct rule from France, is famous for his choice to commit suicide, along with most of his troops, in the highland plantation of Matouba, as French forces closed in. He was born in Martinique, most likely on 2 August 1766. He was of mixed European and African ancestry, and most likely the son of a French official, also named Louis Delgrès, and a free woman of color. When he first played a role in the revolutionary struggle, as a member of a group of exiled republicans in Dominica in 1792, he described himself as a property owner and claimed to have been born free.

When the French government abolished the monarchy and arrested King Louis XVI in 1792 local officials in the French island colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique refused to go along Both colonies were controlled by ...

Article

Jane Poyner

British colonel turned revolutionary, and African‐Caribbean wife (also described as African‐American in origin). In 1790, when Colonel Despard arrived in London after nearly twenty years of British military service in the Caribbean, he brought with him his wife, Catherine, and their young son James. Catherine's background remains unclear: by some accounts she was the daughter of a Jamaican preacher, by others an educated Spanish Creole. The couple had married some time between 1786 and 1789, while Edward was Superintendent of the newly created British enclave of Belize. The Despards' mixed‐race marriage was perhaps the only such example in Britain at the time.

In London the Despards, turning their backs on respectable society, threw themselves into radical politics, Catherine focusing her energies on abolitionism and prisoners' rights. Edward's political views fell under government suspicion and Catherine took an increasingly public role in defending him against charges of ...

Article

Julia Gaffield

general in the Haitian Revolution, first leader of independent Haiti, and a lwa in the Haitian Vodou pantheon. The specifics of Jean-Jacques Dessalines’s early life are not well documented and historians have not come to a consensus regarding his date and place of birth. He was born around the year 1758 in either west central Africa or in the Grande Rivière region in the north of the French colony of Saint Domingue in the Caribbean where he spent much of his life as a slave on two plantations In the late eighteenth century Saint Domingue was the most wealth producing colony in the Americas Much of this wealth was generated through the cultivation and export of sugar and coffee crops Enslaved people often purchased by the plantation owners through the transatlantic slave trade were forced to work on plantations to produce wealth for their masters Some enslaved people were ...

Article

Richard Watts

Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born to Congolese parents on a plantation in Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known prior to independence). He was given the name of the plantation owner, Duclos, before adopting the name of the freed black landowner, Dessalines, who purchased his services as a slave. Unlike his future comrade-in-arms, François Dominique Toussaint Louverture, Dessalines was treated harshly as a slave and joined the ranks of maroons (runaway slaves) at a young age. In 1792 he became a partisan of the slave uprising led by Boukman, a slave of Jamaican origin, and impressed his compatriots with his courage. Yet Dessalines committed acts of cruelty that frightened some in the rebellion. His capacity for violence would contribute in equal measure to his precipitous rise and fall.

Following the abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue in 1793 Toussaint Louverture allied himself with the French Dessalines joined him eventually becoming Toussaint ...

Article

Son of a minor cacique (chief) of the Bahoruco (steep mountains in southeastern Hispaniola) and an orphan since the massacre of the Indian chiefs of Xaragua by Nicolas Ovando, Enriquillo had been raised by Dominican monks, who taught him to speak, read, and write Spanish.

As happened with most Indians at the time, Enriquillo was given as a slave to a brutal Spaniard, Valenzuela, who abused him and tried to rape Enriquillo's young wife. Enriquillo escaped with his family, taking with him some Indian slaves, determined, like himself, to live free or die in the attempt.

Valenzuela pursued the fugitives with a troop of twelve armed Spanish soldiers and attacked Enriquillo s encampment Two Spaniards were killed others were wounded and Valenzuela was captured by Enriquillo s men On setting his old master free the rebel cacique sent him away with those words Thank God I am a Christian ...

Article

Julien Fédon's rebellion, inspired by the French and Haitian revolutions, lasted more than a year. During that time 24,000 slaves left their estates to join Fédon, other free blacks, and French whites to fight for installation of Grenada within the French Republic as a free state without slavery. By February ...

Article

Desha Osborne

free black man and one of the organizers of the first documented rebellion in Bermuda. There are no known records of Force before the 1630s, so it is impossible to determine where and when he was born, or whether he was born free. Information surrounding the planned rebellion is detailed in the court assize records of the Somers Island Company during the leadership of Captain Josias Forster, who served as governor briefly from 1642 to 1643 and again in 1645. Forster later returned to Bermuda and governed for a third time from 1650 to 1659. These records were made public in John Henry Lefroy’s two-volume Memorials of the Discovery and Early Settlement of the Bermudas or Somers Islands, 1515–1685, published in 1877 and 1879 Lefroy s account has been used by scholars since then as the primary record of the event that took place sometime in ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

Born to petit bourgeois parents in Vého, Lorraine, in rural France, Henri-Baptiste Grégoire was educated at a Jesuit college. He then became a teacher and was consequently ordained as a priest in Lorraine at the age of twenty-five. Frustrated by hierarchical barriers to advancement, he turned to writing.

Grégoire's first essays, published in the late 1770s, advocated tolerance of Jews, a position that placed Grégoire in opposition to the wave of anti-Semitism in France. In 1785 he won awards for a book reflecting his passion for Jewish rights Grégoire contended that temporal salvation by which he meant absorption into the Roman Catholic Church was individual rather than racial or national He defined his duty as working for the creation of conditions under which Jews could convert to Catholicism and be eligible for salvation To avoid social corruption he believed Jews were to be encouraged to migrate to the countryside ...

Article

Gary Ashwill

A self-educated former slave, François Dominique Toussaint-L'Ouverture joined the Haitian Revolution in 1791 and became its foremost general, defeating both French and British forces. In 1802, he was betrayed and captured, and he died imprisoned in France.

Toussaint figures importantly in the early-nineteenth-century writings of James McCune Smith, David Walker, and Henry Highland Garnet, among others, as a symbol and exemplar of resistance to slavery, and as an example of the potential of the black race. William Wells Brown, in his pamphlet St. Domingo: Its Revolution and Its Patriots (1854), compares Toussaint favorably to Napoleon and George Washington: “Toussaint liberated his countrymen; Washington enslaved a portion of his.” George Clinton Rowe's seventy-stanza poem, Toussaint L'Ouverture (1890), lauds Toussaint as the “deliverer of his race.” Later African American writers such as Carter G. Woodson and W. E. B. Du Bois argued ...

Article

was born in the French sugar colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), in the west of the island of Hispaniola sometime in the early 1740s. In the first phase of his life he was known as Toussaint à Bréda, his surname adopted from the plantation where he served his time in slavery, not far from the colony’s cultural capital, then called Cap-Français. Legend has it that Toussaint was the son of a royal African warrior, Gaou-Ginou, brought to Saint-Domingue as a captive, and his second wife, known only as Pauline.

As a slave Toussaint served as a herdsman coachman horse trainer veterinarian general assistant to Bréda s French manager Bayon de Libertat nurse at a nearby Jesuit hospital and herbal doctor practicing traditional African medicine After his emancipation he became a planter himself then a military officer politician and de facto head of state Unusual for a slave in Saint Domingue ...

Article

Karol K. Weaver

also known as Macandal, François Macandal, and François Makandal, runaway slave, revolutionary, and legendary figure, was born in Central Africa and lived in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti) in the eighteenth century. After being injured in a work-related accident, he was appointed as an animal caretaker (gardien de bêtes) by his slave owner. Animal caretakers were considered specialized slaves because of the occupational skills they possessed. His status as a specialized slave and animal caretaker had an influence on the acts of resistance in which he took part. Ultimately, his resistance to slavery resulted in his execution. His life and execution influenced the revolutionary and literacy significance ascribed to him after his death.

Like other slaves who cared for animals Makandal possessed special skills and experienced significant privileges and opportunities These presented him with the chance to resist his master and the slave system under which ...

Article

José María Morelos y Pavón was born in Valladolid, New Spain—what is now the city of Morelia in the Mexican state of Michoacán (the city was named in his honor). Educated there, Morelos worked as a scribe and accountant from 1770 to 1790, when he began studies for the priesthood. The Catholic Church had long forbidden blacks, mulattos, and zambos (Afro-Indians) from becoming priests. Morelos's baptismal record, however, had been tampered with—he was originally designated a mulatto, but the record later indicated he was white—and throughout his life the leader maintained that he was of Spanish (white) descent. In all likelihood his parents paid the local priest to make the change in his baptismal record so he would receive more favorable treatment in New Spain's rigid caste system.

Morelos's studies took him to the College of San Nicolás, where he met Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753–1811 future ...