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Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 19:39:32 -0800 (PST)
From: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com>
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com>
Subject: Re: slave names: King responds to Chery responds 1
Message-Id: <Pine.SUN.3.91.960122193735.15623A-100000@crl12.crl.com>

Slave names

Part of a dialog from Bob Corbett's Haiti list, January 1996

Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 17:14:18 -0800 (PST) From: Stewart R. King

Chery says:
> What you said is probably true. That one of the things I have been
> thinking and debating about in the past few weeks. But I think from
> all the brain wash and influence of the French men and slave masters
> the slaves proudly kept their master's names because of lack of self
> identity.
> Jean Chery

A lot of the new freedmen wanted to identify with whites (not necessarily their former masters) because that was the way to the top of society. Those who were relatives of whites (children, for example) cheerfully used the family name whenever they could get away with it.

Those who weren't family members often took names that at least resembled that of patrons -- so, for example, I have a Pierre Pellerin, free black and member of the _marechausee_ in Croix des Bouquets, who most likely chose his name after that of Sieur Pellerin des Prez, a prominent planter who was also a militia officer. No family relationship, not a former master, but instead a commanding officer in the colonial military.

Even the few freedmen who maintained connections with Africa used French-style names (at least in their official documents). So, for example, Anne Rossignol, daughter of a Sr. Rossignol and his _menagere_, living in Cap, was in contact with her aunt, living in Senegal, between 1779 and 1788. The aunt, called Isabelle Albin, free black, in the document, sent her a slave to be given to the aunt's son, a free mulatto and a soldier in the Comte d'Estaing's expedition to Savannah. Only in 1788 did Anne discover that the son was living in St. Lucia, where he had stayed at the end of his assignment there in the army. So, she sent the slave off to him and finally got her _quittance_ for aunt Isabelle. The son's name was Jean Charles Floissac. So, a collection of French names despite the strong African connection.

Noirisme and Black Pride are creatures of the late 19th and early 20th century. Historians learn early not to judge the people of the past by today's standards, nor to expect them to act out of today's motivations...


Stewart King

Date: Tue, 23 Jan 96 11:10:56 est
From: Saint-Vil, Jean

I picked up Jean Fouchard's Les Marrons de la Liberte and began reading it yesterday as part of my initial efforts to build a Saint-Vil? family tree.

I don't have ready quotes from Fouchard but my impression from a quick reading was that most Africans in Ayiti did not seek to reclaim their African name. Also, except for the newly arrived Africans, it would perhaps be difficult for a freed slave who has been sold from plantation to plantation, seperated from his natural family etc...to know his/her real African name.

In any case, it seems odd to me that even Dessalines' African name is unknowned. I agree, there must be also psycho-social explanations to this.

Fouchard reports that a M. de Saint-Vilme, Major for the King in Mirebalais arrived in croix-des-bouquets on december 27 1776... (p512, les Marrons de la Liberte). Was this M. de Saint-Vilme one of these infamously cruel slave-eating-dog trainers of Rochambeau?. He is said to be searching for N with his dogs.

I found a book written by LeBonard Sainville in the local library where Leonard is said to be from Martinique, born in 1910 and apparantly his father's family has deep roots in Bourgade...

Does anyone have any anecdotal informations that identifies the names and origins of Africans brought to St-Domingue from Martinique? Is it likely that this de Saint-Vilme was a slave owner who had brought Africans from Martinique to St-Domingue in the late 1700s?

Beside Fouchard's book, are there others where I may find lists of names of Africans Vs Afranchis Vs Whites, lists of Negriers etc...?

Sorry if I offer more questions than anwers but any input will be greatly appreciated. Peace!


Date: Thu, 25 Jan 96 10:10:31 est
From: Saint-Vil, Jean

Our Ayitian heritage is not defined by the names of the slave masters that we carry. These names do not define who we are. They merely tell us who in France, England, Spain, Germany, Danemark...enriched themselves directly on the sweat and blood of our raped, humiliated and murdered African mothers and fathers.

Changing one's name to an unknowned African name is very different than searching for and adopting one's real African name.

Now adopting the African name will not make us better Haitians or Africans. For exemple, it may be that at the end of one's search the African name identified is that of Cha Cha, the infamous African King of Ouidah who sold his own people to the Europeans. Or it may be that of Gao Ginou, Toussaint's Grand Father, also an African royalty. What would that give?

For myself, who is also one of these fools resolved to fouye zo nan kalalou to adopt my African ancestor's name, it will give me the satisfaction of having a real name in the genetic sense. Further, in as much as it is repugnant to imagine a child carrying the name of the zenglendo who raped her/his mother during the coup d'etat, I find it important to give my children the gift of their African name.

These are my personal reasons for, this is a personal reflexion. Some Haitians are proud of their French names, others are not. Let us not fight each other over this. Instead, let us realize that the glory or shame of our fathers does not automatically belong to us. We make our own glory or shame during the course of our lifetime. They've done their bit. It is for us now to do according to our knowledge, conscience and courage. We should strive to deserve the respect of our followers

For now, I am Jan AfrikAyiti. Lape kanmarad!

Date: Thu, 25 Jan 96 16:55:40 EST
From: Roger Dorsinville

I have nothing against the adoption of african names. However we had at least a dozen generations as free men to create our own haitian tradition and culture identified with our current names and they are certainly not slave owner namesbut names that reflect our fathers and grandfathers achievements and shortcomings.