About mghachem

Historian, attorney, teacher, and writer on legal affairs and the Atlantic revolutionary tradition.

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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