Haiti Anniversary of the Death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Haiti Anniversary of the Death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines

October 17
A former slave, Jean-Jacques Dessalines (ca. 1758–Oct. 17, 1806) played a pivotal role under the command of Toussaint L'Ouverture in the Haitian struggle for independence from France. Following the creation of an independent Haiti, Dessalines ruled Haiti as Emperor Jacques I for two years before he was assassinated in a coup. It is Dessalines' legacy as a freedom fighter and a founding father—rather than his autocratic reign as emperor—that Haitians remember on this official holiday commemorating the anniversary of his death.
Haitians observe the holiday by participating in street parades in the capital city of Port-au-Prince and other cities. Port-au-Prince staged a grand celebration in 2006 to mark the 200th anniversary of Dessalines' assassination, during which President RenÉ PrÉval made an appearance for ceremonies. In a town 100 miles north of the capital, actors portrayed slaves in a historical re-enactment to remember the early plight of Dessalines and his fellow citizens.
In New York City, which is home to tens of thousands of Haitian immigrants, October 17 is also observed with cultural performances and presentations on Dessalines and Haitian history. The Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, a U.S.–based political advocacy group, marked the bicentennial of Dessalines' death by holding events throughout the month of October.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of the Republic of Haiti
2311 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-332-4090; fax: 202-745-7215
www.haiti.org
SOURCES:
AnnivHol-2000, p. 174