Haitian Statesmen and the African Presence in Jean-Jacques Dessalines' Empire

Friday, January 4, 2019: 10:30 AM
Spire Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Nathalie Frédéric Pierre, The Spence School
The Haitian Revolution, 1791-1804, is a watershed moment in the entangled histories of human rights, American decolonization, and the restructuring of European empires. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Haitian statesmen continued to agitate against slavery within their perceived borders, while experimenting with popular modes of governance circulating across the Atlantic World. This paper examines how Haitian statesmen formed governments they thought would suit the needs of a postemanciption society within an enslaved Atlantic world. It seeks to understand what ideas of government resonated among formerly enslaved and mixed-raced generals who were now the country's leaders and legislators. It demonstrates the need for a new periodization of the Haitian Revolution that extends past 1804 to account for the reintroduction of slavery in territories included within Haiti’s political imagery. It argues that in seeking to promote, what in Latin America would be known as “racial harmony,” Haitians established the most nationally-diverse government of the early nineteenth century world.
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