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Wed, 09.20.1758

Jean Dessalines, Haitian Leader born

Jean Dessalines

*Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born on this date in 1758.  He was a Black Haitian soldier, leader of the Haitian Revolution, and the first ruler of an independent Haiti under the 1805 constitution.  

Taking the last name of the owner who owned his mother then, Jean-Jacques Duclos was born into slavery on Cormier, a plantation near Grande-Riviere-du-Nord.  His father had adopted the surname from his owner Henri Duclose. The identity of Jean-Jacques' parents and his region of ancestral origin in West Africa is not known.  Dessalines had two brothers, Louis and Joseph Duclos, who also later took the name Dessalines.  

Dessalines served as an officer in the French army when the colony was fending off Spanish and British incursions. Later he rose to become a commander in the revolt against France. As Toussaint Louverture's principal lieutenant, he led many successful engagements, including the Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot.  After the betrayal and capture of Toussaint Louverture in 1802, Dessalines became the revolution's leader. He defeated a French army at the Battle of Vertières in 1803. Declaring Haiti an independent nation in 1804, Under Dessalines, Haiti became the first country in the Americas to abolish slavery permanently.  

A council of generals chose him to assume the office of governor-general. He ordered the 1804 Haiti massacre of French settlers in Haiti, resulting in the deaths of between 3,000 and 5,000 people, but declared that all other whites, such as the Polish Haitians, could remain in the new country. In September 1804, he was proclaimed emperor by the Generals of the Haitian Revolution Army and ruled in that capacity until being assassinated on October 17, 1806.  He is regarded as one of the founding fathers of Haiti.   

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