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Kreyolicious Repost: Haiti History 101: 10 Things You May Have Not Known About Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Jean-Jacques Dessalines . Governor, Emperor, General (c. 1758–1806) Courtesy of Biography.com

Here are some exciting facts many people may not have know about the leader of the Haitian Revolution and Emperor of Haïti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines. According to my favorite history blogger Kreyolicious:

Dessalines…How often have we heard that name in connection with Haiti, especially with Haiti’s history. But how much do we all know about him?

For a special segment of Haiti History 101, Kreyolicious.com decided to dig deep…very deep. After consulting a variety of sources, here are some things that we learned of Mr. Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Physically, he has been described as a short and stout, dark-skinned man.

Career-wise, he has been described by historians like Charles Dupuy as an able military man who led Haiti after slave revolution leader Toussaint Louverture was deported to France. Born in Grand-Riviere, Haiti (although there has been sources that have speculated that he was born in Guinea), Dessalines rose within revolution army ranks and crowned himself Emperor Jacques I in 1805.

Let’s see what else we learned…

1. His last name wasn’t Dessalines….originally.

The scholar and man of thought Dantes Bellegarde contends that the man now known as Jean-Jacques Dessalines was originally named Jean-Jacques Duclos—Duclos being the name of his first master. His next master was a black man by the name of Dessalines, who was his master at the time of the 1791 slave uprising.

2. He was not very educated.

He was not able to read or write, but he learned to sign his name. At the same time, various historians credit him for having—like Henri Christophe—the good sense to have himself surrounded by intellectuals and well-educated men. Educated men—Deborah Jenson notes in the book Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution—who were his secretaries, namely Justin Chantalatte, and Louis “Tonnerre” Boisrond.

JEAN JACQUES DESSALINES EMPEROR OF HAITI DIED 1806_jpg
Courtesy of http://kreyolicious.com

3. He was a ladies’ man.

Marie-Claire Hereuse Bonheur was his second wife, according to Justin Placide. Charles Dupuy maintains that they didn’t have any children together. Placide contends that he had daughters with his unnamed first wife, but no sons. One of his favorite side chicks, according to Deborah Jenson—who cites Haitian historian Thomas Madiou as her source—was a lady named Couloute, a native of Jeremie.

4. He wanted black Americans to come to Haiti and not be under slavery in the USA.

The historian Justin Placide contends that Dessalines offered U.S. ship captains $46 for every black American they brought to Haiti from the United States. In the book Africa and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History, the scholars Richard M. Juang and Noelle Morissette write that Dessalines offered monetary rewards to slave traders who brought Africans— intended for slavery in the United States—to Haiti as freedmen. Sir James Basket, another historian, also makes this assertion.

5. He wanted Haiti to have a huge army.

Shortly after the Declaration of Independence in 1804, Dessalines had a proclamation sent out asking blacks and mulattoes who had left Saint-Domingue, Haiti’s colonial name, to return back to Haiti. As some of them were in dire financial straits, he offered to pay for their passage back to Haiti. Historians like Justin Placide, view this more as Dessalines’ attempt at repopulating Haiti. According to this same historian, Dessalines had a census done in 1805 that put the number of people of Haiti at 380,000—a huge drop from decades before—as a result of Dessalines’ massacres. Thomas Ott, a latter-day historian puts the population at 250,000). His proclamation, declared Justin Placide and James Basket, was really a way to recruit soldiers to replace the ones that had perished for the twelve year period of 1791-1803. — Continue Reading on Kreyolicious. 

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