Why Haitians Celebrate Jean-Jacques Dessalines on October 17th

October 17th is Dessalines Day in Haiti.

On Saturday, people will take to the streets in cities like Port au Prince and New York to participate in parades that commemorate the death of a man remembered for the pivotal role he played in the Haitian Revolution.

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Jean-Jacques Dessalines was born into slavery sometime in the year 1758 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Present day Haiti.)

During the Haitian Revolution he served under the command of acclaimed military leader Toussaint L’Ouverture to fight for freedom from France. When Toussaint L’Ouverture was deported to France in 1802 by Napoleon’s forces, Jean-Jacques Dessalines took up the cause and declared Haiti’s independence in 1804.

Dessalines then declared himself Emperor Jacques I and began a 2 year period of totalitarian rule before being assassinated during a coup in 1806.

Despite his brief period of autocratic reign, Jean-Jacques Dessalines is, above-all, celebrated as a man who fought for, and ultimately attained, freedom for Haiti’s people.

Bon fèt Jean-Jaques Dessalines Haïti!

Written by Erin Nguyen on October 15, 2015

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