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Roumain, Jacques  

Richard Watts

Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to upper-middle-class mixed-race parents, Roumain attended excellent schools in both Haiti and Europe, where he acquired remarkable language skills (he spoke English, German, and Spanish, in addition to French and Creole) and a profound understanding of European cultures. At a young age, he rejected his parents' cosmopolitanism, returning to Haiti from Paris in 1927 to help found La Revue Indigène. This journal, which was instrumental in the development of a specifically Haitian literary aesthetic rooted in traditional peasant life, published many of Roumain's early poems. Roumain wrote prodigiously and fearlessly during this period, publishing two collections of novellas in 1931 (La Proie et l'ombre and Les Fantoches) that denounced the greed of Haiti's ruling class.

In 1934 Roumain was elected secretary-general of the Haitian Communist Party, which he had helped establish. That same year, Haitian president Sténio Vincent alarmed by the forceful ...