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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

was the mixed-race son of a wealthy plantation-owning family in the Torbec parish in the south of the French colony of Saint-Domingue. He is most famously known for being the secretary who coauthored the Haitian Declaration of Independence with Jean-Jacques Dessalines. In 1784 Boisrond-Tonnerre’s parents, Mathurin Boisrond and a free woman of color from the Félix family, moved to Aquin where they acquired a plantation and a number of slaves. About this time, Boisrond-Tonnerre set sail for the French metropole to begin his education. Many plantation owners sent their sons to France for their education, and Boisrond-Tonnerre was part of a larger group of wealthy, mixed-race young men who traveled to the metropole.

The origins of the use of Tonnerre in his name are uncertain One historian argues that a lightning bolt struck at the exact time that he was born which inspired his father to add the word to ...

Article

Marixa Lasso

known as “the Liberator,” in Venezuela, Colombia, and elsewhere in Latin America, was born on 24 July 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela. He was the son of doña María de la Concepción Palacios y Blanco and don Juan Vicente Bolívar y Ponte. Both parents died while he was a young boy, and he was raised by an uncle. His mother was descended from a family in the Canary Islands, and his father was of Basque descent. The Bolívar family had been in the Americas for seven generations and was a prominent and wealthy family of slave and plantations owners. This wealth and status gave Bolívar access to the best education available, as well as the opportunity to spend part of his formative years in Europe.

Bolívar first traveled to Europe when he was 15 years old. He returned again as a young widower, in 1803 During his second trip he ...

Article

Simón Bolívar was born to a family of wealthy cacao plantation landholders who owned many slaves. Educated by private tutors in Caracas and Spain, Bolívar was profoundly influenced by the thinkers of the European Enlightenment, in particular the liberal ideas of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as by the American Revolution (1775–1783), and the French Revolution (1789–1799).

With the news of Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Spain in 1808, and the consequent political weakness of the Spanish rulers in Madrid, Bolívar and other elite criollos (Creoles, people of European descent born in the Americas) started to organize local juntas (councils) in order to replace the colonial government. In 1810, with Commander Francisco de Miranda he led a revolt against the Spanish forces in Venezuela Some historians say that Miranda and Bolívar wanted to take power from the European colonizers ...

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

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 ...

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

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

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

Alejandro E. Gómez

pardo militia sergeant and revolutionary, was among the ringleaders of a republican conspiracy unveiled in the port city of La Guaira (on the northern coast of the Captaincy General of Venezuela) in July 1797, for which he was tried and executed in June 1799.

The La Guaira conspiracy was doubtless the most radical plot organized in the Spanish Atlantic before the period of independence. Of clear Jacobin inspiration, the conspirators intended to replace the colonial government with a republic in which all socioracial distinctions and slavery were abolished. Initially led by local whites and some Spanish prisoners who had been dispatched from Spain (where they were arrested for having organized a similar revolutionary plot), the egalitarian aims of the movement earned the support of four sergeants of the pardo militia and at least three black soldiers Among these stands out the figure of del Valle who ended ...

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

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

Enrique Salvador Rivera

the accused mastermind behind the 1795 Coro rebellion, an insurrectionary movement led by slaves and free people of color that rocked the foundations of white rule in colonial Venezuela. Partially inspired by the French and Haitian revolutions, Coro’s rebels demanded the abolition of slavery. As was the case in most slave rebellions, however, Coro’s rebels ultimately failed in their bid to take power. Although González’s role in the rebellion is a matter of contention among historians, he is remembered in Venezuela today as one of the country’s founding fathers—an early republican who foreshadowed Venezuela’s independence.

González was born in West Central Africa before he was enslaved and taken to Curaçao by Dutch slave traders. Known as José Kopra in Curaçao, González fled as a young man to nearby Coro to live free. González was one of hundreds of enslaved Curaçaoans, known in Coro as loangos who took advantage of ...