About Erin Zavitz, PhD

Teacher at the Bosque School in Albuquerque, NM and independent scholar of Haiti

Haiti’s Revolutionary Calendar

Prominently placed on the title page of Louis-Félix Boisrond-Tonnerre’s memoir is the following phrase: “An 1er de l’indépendance” (the first year of independence). The phrase is the first publication date to appear. It is only on the last line that the reader finds 1804, a helpful reference for those less familiar with Haiti’s independence chronology.

Boisrond-Tonnerre, Mémoires pour servir a l'histoire d'Hayti (Dessalines, 1804); digitized by Harvard University Library

Boisrond-Tonnerre, Mémoires pour servir a l’histoire d’Hayti (Dessalines, 1804); digitized by Harvard University Library

Until recently, scholars relied upon a later edition of the memoir edited by Haitian historian Joseph Saint-Rémy that did not include the Haitian dating system of years of independence. Literary scholar Jean Jonassaint, who located the 1804 text in the Harvard University Library, notes that Boisrond-Tonnerre’s date placed the narrative within the revolutionary and official discourses of the era. Boisrond-Tonnerre was a secretary for Haiti’s first head of state, the former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Months earlier, he composed Haiti’s founding document, the declaration of independence, which also included this new dating system.

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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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