Ernst Prophète and “The Haitian Declaration of Independence”

My favorite image of Haitian independence is a 1999 painting by the great Haitian artist Ernst Prophète, now in the private collection of Jack Rosenthal and Holly Russell (New York City).  A representative of the “naïf” style, Prophète’s great work shows Dessalines at the center of a group of generals, standing on a stone platform in the town square of Gonaïves, reading the text of his January 1 address to a throng of cheering Haitians, their hands raised triumphantly above their heads in pride and joy.  To the right, Prophète depicts a group representing the free people of color of Saint-Domingue, their reaction to the announcement somewhat obscured by the leaves of the palm trees that tower above the crowd and gesture to the seascape that lies beyond.

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Videos for “Haitian Independence in Haitian Vodou”

My paper for this conference explores the ways in which the archive of Vodou song references and engages with the experience of Haitian independence. The two videos below provide some examples. In the first, an interview done in November 2012 by Duke students Claire Payton and Eric Barstow as part of the Vodou Archive project, the head of the Lakou Badjo recounts the story of its founding and its links with Dessalines’ role in the war of independence.

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150 Years Later

Erin Zavitz’s post reminded me of a document that Patrick Tardieu shared with me a few years ago. It seems as though the Haitian government was not successful in finding a document in 1903 since they were still looking for it for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of independence. On Dec 31, 1952 Edmond Mangones wrote to La Commission des Sciences Sociales du Tricinquantenaire de l’Independance (The Commission of Social Sciences for the 150th Anniversary of Independence) to report on an original of the Acte de l’Independance and “ce que je pense au suject de sa disparition” (what I think on the subject of its dissapearance). Both the 1903 (from Zavitz’s post) and the 1952 reports suggest that a document might exist in the British Library/Museum (although neither could find one) but the printed versions that I found were at The National Archives of the United Kingdom. Mangones appears to be looking for a handwritten and signed original. Has anyone looked for versions in the British Library?

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100 Years Later

To frame Julia Gaffield’s photos of the declaration here are several images and articles from the centennial. The first three are articles from the Port-au-Prince paper Le Soir. In preparing for the centennial Haiti’s intellectuals realized an original copy of the declaration could not be found in the National Archives. Thus, they made a call to locate it. These articles trace their research.

The fourth image is the final installment of a count down to 1 January 1904. Copies of Le Soir are at FIC Bibliothèque Haïtienne in Port-au-Prince.

28 Jan. 1903

28 Jan. 1903

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The Declaration of Independence in Rainsford

Below are images of the Haitian Declaration of Independence from Marcus Rainsford’s 1805 An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti from the collection at the John Carter Brown Library. Paul Youngquist and Gregory Pierrot have recently published an edited version of Rainsford’s book.

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First Publication of the Acte D’Independance in an American Newspaper

According to Deborah Jenson’s research, this is the first publication of part of the Declaration of Independence in any American newspaper. See: Deborah Jenson, “Dessalines’s American Proclamations of the Haitian Independence,” Journal of Haitian Studies, (2009) 15(1): 89.

Evening Post - March 7

Transcription at the National Library of Jamaica

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This document is a transcription of the Declaration of Independence from the records of Governor George Nugent of Jamaica. It is at the National Library of Jamaica in Kingston. In a conversation with Deborah Jenson, we concluded that because of this document, along with the cover letter that mentioned that the enclosed document had arrived from a press, somewhere in the Jamaican records there might be a printed copy of the Declaration of Independence. The call number is MS 72.