Haiti list discussion: July 2002

This discussion was sparked by the following newspaper announcement:

Men fought against British

Miami Herald
June 2002

North Miami officials recently met with their Savannah, Ga., counterparts to begin a groundbreaking effort to commemorate Haitians involvement in the Revolutionary War.

About 750 Haitian freemen fought alongside colonial troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah on Oct. 9, 1779. The role of Haitian soldiers in the battle had long been ignored, North Miami Mayor Josaphat Celestin said.

The delegations met Friday to establish a monument to be installed in the Battlefield Park Heritage Center, under construction near the Savannah battlesite.

Officials from both cities cemented the relationship that grew over the creation of the monument during a reception in December 2001 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. No date has been set for completion of the monument.

Savannah Mayor Floyd Adams Jr. pledged a plot of park land to the South Florida Haitian American Historical Society, which is funding the monument.

“It's one of the most exciting things, to be involved in from the creation to the reality,'' said businessman Richard Shinhoster, who helped push for the monument in Savannah.

“To see a monument in downtown Savannah and the commemoration of the involvement of the Haitian Americans, it's a dream come true. This will help educate Americans but also Haitian youth about the significant contribution their ancestors made.”

The monument's focal point will be an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Henry Christophe, the first king of Haiti, who participated in the battle as a 14-year-old drummer boy. Behind the statue will be statues of other soldiers who followed him into battle. Six panels inscribed with the soldiers' names will surround the memorial. Haitian-Canadian sculptor Gregroire Anocles will design the statues.

The Haitian-American Historical Society will submit an application for approval to the Historic Site and Monument Commission in Savannah as the final step.

The city is making an effort to include all nations who had a part in the war, Adams said.

Savannah officials invited North Miami officials to tour the city, where they were greeted with a 21-gun salute and visited the graves of the Haitian soldiers, Celestin said.

The movement to recognize the Haitian soldiers has also spilled into Savannah's public school curriculum. Textbooks will be rewritten to include the contributions of Haitian troops, Celestin said.

“It means recognition for our efforts, that we were here all along, that Haiti was a part of the effort to liberate America and that they came here as free men, not as slaves,” Celestin said. “We hope this country will recognize this.”

The above newspaper article sparked the follow list exchanges


June 18, 2002

No Haitians at Savannah.

I agree with the idea of erecting a statue for the French Volunteers of Saint-Domingue, under the command of Comte d'Estaing, for their participation in the siege of Savannah but, as a professor of Haitian history, I object to the use of the word Haitians to refer to those soldiers. They were free, indeed, but they did NOT represent Haiti or the future Haitians. They wanted to prove that they were French citizens and as such ready to shed their blood in a war fought by an ally of France.

Furthermore, the United States was a country where slavery was still legal. Would any "Haitian" take the side of a power where Africans were in bondage?

I do not want to rain on anybody's parade. The two mayors are obviously men who want to pay tribute to those volunteers. A good way to do it would be to honor "The Volunteers of Saint-Domingue (future Haiti)".

Henry Christophe's presence at the siege of Savannah is NOT a fact historically proven.

Max Manigat


Jean Saint-Vil

While I agree with professor Max Manigat's basic premise that the African soldiers who fought at Savannah were not soldiers of the Republic of Haiti. I vehemently disagree with the term “French Volunteers of Saint-Domingue” that he is proposing to describe these Africans.

As far as I know, the proper name for the island currently shared by the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti, was and is “AYITI”. A land rightfully owned by an Arawak people who called themselves Tainos. So if anything they could have called these Africans. Africans of Ayiti.

The fact that some thieves landed on the island, called it whatever their fantaisies inspired them and established white supremacy on the land does not mean normal people must accept this as a matter of fact. Indeed, the Africans brought to Ayiti as enslaved human beings decided to fight this barbaric system with all their might and when they were sure to have eliminated the murderous squatters from the land of their (by then genocided) Tainos brothers, they officially adopted for their new home the name given to it by the former rightful gardians: AYITI. (Although, I am now aware of another theory which purpots that Ayiti's name has a different African root: Ayiti Tome = Our land to preserve and cherish...??? - I hope to learn more about this theory. But in any case the Africans having worked this land with their sweat and blood and having maintained good relations with the few surviving Tainos decendants were in their right to claim that land for themselves - If I do say so myself - without asking permission of the Queens of France, England and Spain.)

Nonetheless, if like brother Malcom said, the fact that a cat gives birth in an oven does not make biscuits of its kittens, the soldiers that went to Savannah via Ayiti were born Africans, lived as Africans, died and were buried as Africans - away from the motherland from which they were stolen.

These Africans were no more French than a Haitian who has now adopted Canadian citizenship is a BRISTISH subject or really gives a hoot about the Queen of England and her parasitic entourage.

An African who crosses the Atlantic remains an African and, indeed, in 2002 New York cab drivers still won't stop to pick up Danny Glover, the “American” Star. That's why Wycleff being fully aware that “Masquerade is a game we are all forced to play” he keeps his flag of Ayiti close at hand everywhere and at all times. Otherwise, he'd be notin' but a foolish MVP?

Sorry for the verbosity folks but sometimes history really bites and gets me excited!



Edy Sanon

It has always been very scary to be a professional in our Haiti world. Ordinary citizens have tendencies NOT to respect a researcher in academia while of course it goes vice versa. It so happens that people involved emotionally in Haitian politics whether inside or outside will always try to distort even history to their current plot. It is a misfortune for Haiti when such a society cannot respect the assessment of a professor (of course that is not subjective).

Professor Manigat is correct in his analysis of the historic presence of slaves volunteering to fight in Savannah, GA. Now, one can called them Haitian soldiers for political purposes while a scholar is bound to state the historic facts with a educated brain subjected to no bias.


Joel Dreyfuss

I have always been told there is no definitive list of who participated in the Savannah battle. I wonder what list they plan to include.

Joel Dreyfuss


Amazing interchange between Manigat and St Vil. I love to read what our thinkers put out. Sincerely. I am left still wondering were they or were they not Haitian? Africans brought to Haiti are still Africans? When did I become Haitian, then? But once they'd lived and breathed and bled the land of Haiti, (not to be taken as though they had taken advantage of Haiti but that Haiti was in their blood) , they then qualified as being Haitian? When did I become Haitian, as opposed to an African child born of African parents on the land of Haiti? I thought I was born Haitian. I thank God for the ferocity of my African-Haitian progenitors who fought so valiantly for freedom wherever they were. But please, don't tell me I need to become "hyphenated” now! (Tongue-in cheek). Again, thanks for the thought that goes in your writings. I love it!

Whoever these men were, let's honor them...And while we're at it, I wonder if there were not one or two Haitian-African women who went along with them who might not deserve some validation also....


Max Manigat

Dear Jean Saint-Vil,

We are coming from two different points of view. I am talking history. I have to respect the facts. The official name of the Free People of Color contingent was: “Volontaires de Saint-Domingue” If you want to make them Africans you may have good reasons for that as you explained but this is not how nationality is determined.

Nationality is determined by a law.

You surely are aware of the class/quasi-caste system in Saint-Domingue, in those days, where race, colors and condition were very important . Two races, three colors, two conditions, three quasi-castes and two classes. A complex society indeed. You may also remember the title of the book by professor Carl egler, comparing slavery and race relations in Brazil and the U.S.A.: "Neither Black Nor White". The title refers to the way mulattoes are seen in Brazil. The same could be said of the mulattoes in Saint-Domingue. Dessalines was well aware of that problem I call "colorism", which still plagues Haiti, when he declared that officially all "Haytians will be known as Blacks".

Call those "Volontaires" Africans if you want but the study of Saint-Domingue society tells us otherwise. Do you know that certain of those volunteers went back to Saint-Domingue after Savannah but preferred to return to live in exile in the U.S. when Haitian independence was proclaimed?


Max Manigat


Jean Saint-Vil

Dear Professor Max Manigat, you wrote:

“We are coming from two different points of view. I am talking history. I have to respect the facts.”

I concur that we are coming from 2 different points of view but I believe that the divergence comes not from you talking history and me talking something other which does not require respect for facts. Rather, I would humbly submit to you that my point of view is indeed very factual and as strongly (if not more so) historical. Let me try to further elucidate this point.

You say «The official name of the Free People of Color contingent was: "Volontaires de Saint-Domingue". And in saying so, I assume that you assume that it is a matter of fact that the people in question were

  1. free,
  2. people of color,
  3. volunteers
  4. Saint-Dominguois - thus FRENCH, since you went further to clarify that “Nationality is determined by a law”.

Please, allow me to add a quote from the New York Freedom Trail web page to illustrate how very shaky the above assumptions might be:

“Among the blacks fighting on the American side were a large number of troops brought to the continent by the French. These included Henri Christophe, a 12-year-old who was wounded in the fight before Savannah. He later become the liberator and then king of Haiti.”

“Blacks In The Revolution” (see New York Freedom Trail web page:)

If the above statement is historically true, one would be justified to ask how many of these so-called free people of colour were merely black children being used as human shield by coward white generals?

Any more than the Senegalese who fought to help liberate Europe during the so-called “World” War II, were they indeed French nationals?

What law recognized these black children and adults to be French nationals? And what did this presumed French nationality afford them in terms of rights and obligations?

As far as I can ascertain, little Henri Christophe, born in captivity (please correct me, if needed) on one of the islands stolen by English-speaking whites, ended up in Savannah with the same nationality he has known since birth: “BLACK BOY WITH NO LAND TO CALL HIS OWN”. This is the historical fact. Is it not his realisation of this fact that prompted him to join all other conscious black men and women who, like him, were trying to survive and reverse the tribulations brought upon them by White Supremacy? He decided to stand up, fight the monster and help create for his people a nation, a true home in the Black Republic of Haiti. Therefore, it is on January 1, 1804, having beaten international white supremacy, that these courageous Africans became HAITIANS. Before that day, one can only refer to these men and women as either (Mandingue, Yoruba, Caplaou, Ibo, Congo or simply Africans stolen away from Africa)

Max Manigat wrote:

“Call those "Volontaires" Africans if you want but the study of Saint-Domingue society tells us otherwise.”

Again, it is a difference between speaking with the hard historical facts as one’s primary guide or using as such a popular but severely flawed Eurocentric paradigm. In Jean Fouchard’s “Les marrons de la liberté” it is clearly explained how the massive arrival of newly enslaved Africans on the island helped tip the demographic balance in favour of the revolted Africans. Unable to accurately identify these human beings with the people to whom they truly belonged (Mayi, Congo, Yoruba, Mandingue etc…), why shouldn’t one refer to them as: Africans? Furthermore, what sound historical rationale can one use to justify calling them by the nationality of their tormentors? Indeed, I fail to see any logic in doing so, this even for the Africans born in bondage in Ayiti. Yes, I contend that factually speaking, calling these Africans, French volunteers is even more historically unsound than calling Elian Gonzales an American superstar.

And, again, I will take exception to calling the land of the Tainos: St-Domingue, in the 18th century. If a zenglendo breaks into my house, I see no logic in helping him write his name all over my possessions. He may have his own reasons to attempt doing so. But I’d be damned to be the one caught helping him out.

Professor Manigat wrote also:

“Do you know that certain of those volunteers went back to Saint-Domingue after Savannah but preferred to return to live in exile in the U.S. when Haitian independence was proclaimed?”

Absolutely ! and I certainly have no beef calling such fools “volunteers” :) . In fact, I had the pleasure of meeting some decendants of such “volunteers” who actually carry the same colonial name as my own, down in New-Orleans. These folks actually insist on calling themselves “Creoles” up to this very day. You should have seen my face as I sat to listen to my obviously black “Creole” cousins explaining with great passion how a whole part of the family has undertaken to migrate (voluntarily of course) to the very tip of California in search of full whitening of their branch of the family – and yes, these modern-day “volunteers” seem to have now finally achieved full and complete Michael Jacksonism. So, once they were Africans, then they volunteered their way into becoming successively: people of Color, Creoles, and finally reaching nirvana as invisible white Americans. If that's not the epitomy of the American dream, I don't know what is :)

I shall take this opportunity to also answer M. Sanon’s following comments:

“It has always been very scary to be a professional in our Haiti world. Ordinary citizens have tendence NOT to respect a researcher in academia while of course it goes vice versa.”

As a young Haitian who grew up in the land of Zabèlbòk Bèrachat, I understand the truth which underlies your comment. However, M. Sanon, rest assured that Professor Manigat is one Haitian intellectual for whom I have nothing less but the utmost respect. What I am challenging here is neither his qualifications or his person and I am sure he understands that fully well. As a people miseducated in a school system designed by our enemies, we would be fools to continue to take at face value all the non-sense we have been fed as HISTORICAL FACTS. And, indeed, I have learned that in this age of free-flowing information, no one needs to let himself be mystified away from questioning the soundness of Eurocentrism masquerading as history. It doesn't matter how many Ph.D. I am short of, I will continue to let myself be guided by my own people wisdom that warned us all that: kakaje pa linet ! Kidonk, mwen fenk koumanse fouye zo nan kalalou jouk mwen rive konprann kote dlo pase li rantre nan kokoye – dotanplis....mache chèche pa janm dòmi san soupe!

(How did the water get into the coconut? - How did the Africans stop being Africans, once enslaved in America?)



I own a book: "Dictionnaire des officiers français ayant combattu en Amérique..." Only the officers, not the soldiers, are included. A few names from the "Volontaires de Saint-Domingue" can be found in it.

Someone interested in obtaining the complete list could contact the author of the "Dictionnaire ..." or the "Société Française d'Histoire d'Outre-Mer".

Unfortunately, all my books are already packed. Even the title of the book I refer to in the first paragraph is not completely accurate. I know that I own a copy of it because I did some research in it some fifteen years ago.


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