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Dessalines, Jean-Jacques (1758–1806)

Stewart R. King

Subject History » Political History
Study of History » Comparative History

Place The Caribbean » Haiti

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799, 1800-1899

Key-Topics bibliography, racism, rebellion, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00461.x


Jean-Jacques Dessalines was probably born a slave on the Cormier plantation in Grande-Rivère du Nord in the Northern Province of what is now Haiti . Haiti, then called Saint-Domingue, was the Saudi Arabia of its day; the wealthiest place in the world. The wealth of sugar, coffee, indigo, and cotton was produced by half a million slaves laboring under the direction of about 50,000 free people, half of whom were white and half of African ancestry. Jean-Jacques worked as a field hand and foreman on a large white-owned plantation as a young man, and then at the age of 30 was sold to a free black man named Dessalines. Dessalines the master was apparently a small-scale planter with a dozen or so slaves, and Jean-Jacques, who took his last name as was customary for slaves, was a commandeur , or leading slave on his farm. In 1791 the Haitian Revolution broke out and Jean-Jacques left his master to join the rebels. At first he served under Jean-François, one of the early leaders of the rebel slaves in the Northern Province. Jean-François' forces based themselves in the Spanish colony (today's Dominican Republic) and the leaders held Spanish officers' commissions. There, Jean-Jacques Dessalines became the chief lieutenant of Toussaint Louverture , the most professional and charismatic of the rebel leaders. The slave rebels said they were fighting for the legitimate kings of France and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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