Jan. 1, 2020, Haiti will celebrate 216 years of independence. Many in Haiti and living abroad will hang their Haitian flags proudly and commemorate not only the first day of the new year, but the country’s hard fought liberation. Though some may be aware of the story of Haiti’s rebellion leading to its independence, below are four little known facts about the country’s revolution.
1. Francois-Dominique Toussaint, Haitian revolutionary leader and prominent figure in Haiti’s history is actually better known by his nickname Toussaint-L’Ouverture (the opening). He received the nickname due to his ability to find an opening in the enemy lines as well as opening the way for Haiti’s independence.
2. Marie-Jeanne Lamartinière was a nurse who served at the Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot (March 4 – 24, 1802) with her husband Louis Daure Lamartinière, who was the brigadier chief of battalion. She fought in a male uniform, armed with both a rifle and a sword. She was respected by her fellow soldiers for her bravery, fearlessness, and her ability to use the long rifle.
3. Sanité Bélair, whose given name was Suzanne Bélair, became a sergeant than later a lieutenant in Toussaint Louverture’s army. Described by Dessalines as a “Tigress,” Sanité Bélair is considered as one of the heroes of the Haitian Revolution. In 2004, she was featured on the Haitian 10 gourde banknote for the “Bicentennial of Haiti” Commemorative series. She was the only woman depicted in the series, and the second woman ever (after Catherine Flon) to be depicted on a Haitian banknote.
4. Before her abduction from Dahomey (now Benin), Adbaraya Toya, was a healer, soldier and member of the Council of Women. She played a key role in teaching many that fought in the Haitian Revolution. Popularly known as Victoria Montou, she became good friends with Jean Jacques Dessalines’ mother. Before her death, Mary Elisabeth entrusted her son to Adbaraya. Referred to as aunty by Jean Jacques, she taught him how to fight as a soldier, throw a knife, hand-to-hand combat, as well as physical maneuvers to defend himself in battle. Adbaraya made Jean Jacques join the 1791 slave rebellion. Though she was old at the time of the revolution, she trained and led her troop to fight. Jean Jacques Dessalines appointed her leader of the military.