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From owner-haiti@lists.webster.edu Tue Oct 29 21:00:05 2002
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2002 17:00:20 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Corbett <corbetre@webster.edu>
To: Haiti mailing list <haiti@lists.webster.edu>
Subject: 13466: Re: 13460: Saint-Vil Re: two questions about the Revolution (fwd)
Sender: owner-haiti@lists.webster.edu

Two questions about the Revolution

From Bob Corbett’s Haiti list, 29 October 2003

----Original Message Follows----
From: Bob Corbett <corbetre@webster.edu>
To: Haiti mailing list <haiti@lists.webster.edu>
Subject: 13460: Schuller: two questions about the Revolution (fwd)
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2002 13:55:15 -0600 (CST)

From: Mark Schuller <marky@umail.ucsb.edu>

In the spirit of bringing knowledge of Haiti and the world’s most important historical event to the world stage, i have a couple of questions.

First, i was struck, seeing Simon’s second installment of For the Love of Freedom: Dessalines (DEFINITELY a must see to people to communicate the drama and heroism of the Revolution) and by re-reading Black Jacobins the self-conscious roles that the nwa and milat played. According to both black writers, the milat (Petion, Rigaud, Boyer) engaged in a cynical alliance that allowed them to, eventually, run the country’s military, political, and state apparatus without interference from the French or other blan. People who i took to see the play were struck by the difference in racial ideologies and consciousness between neg and milat, between Haiti and the U.S.

This led me to wonder about the historical racial memory of the revolution and its heroes. I remember reading somewhere that to the neg, Dessalines was the true hero, and to the blan and milat, that honor goes to Toussaint. I actually interviewed many Haitians on this subject at a vodou ceremony and on the streets of Potoprens. Can anyone shed light on this?

Second, especially after reading Bell’s _Walking on Fire_ i was curious if there is any historiography that includes the roles that women played in the revolution? Simon, taking from James, limits women’s participation to what my freind called only a sexual role. Any conversation about this would be helpful to me and, according to some Haitian women’s organizations, Haiti’s self-image as it celebrates the bicentennial. In the words of one activist, Haitian men think they have to be Dessalines to be men. Arguably Dessalines’ greatest contribution to the Revolution was his fierceness and his unflinching, unapologetic use of force to deliver on the promise of freedom made at Bwa Kayman.

Anyway. Fourteen months to go... :)

From: Jean Saint-Vil <jafrikayiti@hotmail.com>

Re: I remember reading somewhere that to the nèg, Dessalines was the true hero, and to the blan and milat, that honor goes to Toussaint... Can anyone shed light on this?

All I can tell you is this, I have seldom met a blan or nèg milat who speaks of Dessalines rationally, i.e. with due respect. Dessalines is indeed seen more favourably by most nèg nwa—but not by all. There has been plenty of Dessalines-suppression going on in Haiti, especially through the mis-education provided by the Eurocentric/Christian schools. But also, because of the demagogic noirism movement led by the likes of François Duvalier and Léopold Senghor. These men having used the name of Dessalines in vain in their inconsistent theories and behaviors, now reference to the name of Dessalines is often greeted with suspicion.

However Toussaint has always been blessed for he was less war-like (i.e. less proned to respond to white supremacist violence with what it truly takes to cripple the beast). Toussaint Louverture was a marthyr—therefore a good negro after death.

Haiti’s Toussaint vs. Dessalines thing is not unlike the U.S.’ Martin Luther King vs Malcom X thing. In both cases you wound up with people who actually hated to see both men alive—now in death, pretending one of them was a hero so they may better satisfy their distaste of the one who was willing to fight—with all the means necessary!

Not long ago, a friend wrote this to me concerning Danny Glover’s alleged film project.

Part of the delay was trying to figure out whose perspective the film should be from, Toussaint, Dessalines.

I am still keeping my fingers crossed—hoping Dessalines will not be sacrificed once again. For, the so-called war crimes that Papa Dessalines is accused of are no transgressions at all in the face of what was being done to his people. And had he not done what he did, when he did, who knows where we would have been today. Perhaps Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson and al.. would have murdered twice as many Africans as they did over their lifetimes (hey! how come these two folks still do not have a reputation of mass murderers?—have you notice how their biographies are playing all the time on A&E and TLC—without any mention of the number of people they killed?

As for the question about women in the revolution, I know of two website where you can find some relevant info in French .

http://www.haitiwebs.com/femmes/ http://www.windowsonhaiti.com/windowsonhaiti/docs-h.html

I am particularly fascinated by Sanite Bélair who was reportedly a sergeant in the revolutionary army. Her heroic insistence that she be executed like a soldier, along side her husband is amazing. The info on Windowsonhaiti.com is credited to a woman who is also doing praise worthy work in Haiti today, Mrs. Bayinnah Bello.

I will never forget the expression on this boy’s face when I, his part-time teacher, took him to the Haitian Museum (MUPANAH) in 1997 (or 98) to see an exhibit showcasing great women of Haitian History—including the info on Sanite Bélair. Needless to say his female class mates were bursting with pride but he couldn’t register the idea of a woman leading men in this heroic army. We had a good time that day.

History: Herstory: Ourstory

«Depi nan Ginen bon nèg ap ede nèg!»