That particular person was a charismatic speaker like Aristide but the movement was bigger than just one individual person or man.
Empress, I agree with you that Haiti's revolutionary movement was bigger than just one individual person. No hesitation about that! It started well before Dessalines. It started with the first black men and women who resisted their capture and enslavement on the shores of Africa and through the torturous transatlantic passage. Millions more Africans died than Jews in the Holocaust and Russians at the hands of Bonaparte, Stalin, and Hitler. But the great African genocide that established the modern economic order has been downplayed, relatively to other apalling genocides. Yes, the movement started with that spirit of resistance. It continued with "Les Marrons Inconnus" (unnamed or unknown maroons, that is escaped slaves) who joined with the relatively few Indians who survived extermination at the end of the armies of Christian civilization. Dessalines is not referred to as "The Father of Our Nation" because he started anything. He is reverently called that, because he had the incredible will to give focus to the fragmented revolutionary movement and lead it, relentlessly, to one particular objective: the end of slavery, and the coming of a new day where no white man would rule over any black man in Ayiti. What we have done with that legacy is a different matter, but the radical influence and determination of Dessalines in bringing this about is amply documented.
Dessalines forged a powerful alliance with Petion, and so united blacks and mulattoes, slaves and affranchis, in a coalition of men and women who would destroy anything "white" standing in the way of their freedom (but one should also remember that he richly rewarded the Polish faction of the Napoleonic army who defected and subjected themselves to Dessalines's command to defeat the White French Special Mission Re-Enslavement Armies of Napoleon, Leclerc, Rochambeau and their enthusiastic supporters).
I had not even heard before the claim that Dessalines was "a charismatic speaker" like Aristide. I think that this might be an unintended slur to the memory of the man. Dessalines was above all a do-er, not a speak-er.
By the way, much too much has been made of Aristide's oratory abilities, though I used to be mesmerized by his fiery speeches as a parish priest at St. Jean Boco Church, due to their incredibly audacious tone of confrontation facing the murderous Duvalierists and their equally murderous Haitian Army and U.S. Government enablers. But purely as a apeaker, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was someone who made me cringe in my seat more than he ever enthused me. I hated it when he spoke of fake love and fake marriage between the the Army and the people. I hated it when he pretended to speak in eight languages or more. I hated it when he opted to speak in paraboles instead of telling his followers the plain truths as he saw them. I hated all that doublespeak and triplespeak. A good speaker makes his points in all simplicity, and that was not the hallmark of Aristide. But I did admire his audacity and extreme will to rid the nation of Duvalierism. What we have done with that legacy is a different matter, but the radical influence and determination of Aristide in bringing this about is also amply documented.
It is absolutely no wonder why Dessalines has been so much hated throughout History, mostly by White people but by White-influenced colored folks as well, because he was uniquely identified as the man most responsible for upsetting the social order of his time. It is also no wonder that Aristide has been so much hated in modern times too, because he attempted to upset the social order of his day, as a priest and in the early years of his political leadership. What happened in the time that followed those early years is much more debatable, at least in my personal point of view. But I would not take the comparison between Aristide and Dessalines much further, because that would lead us to too many pitfalls and fallacies. Aristide is not Dessalines and Dessalines is not Aristide. But they have shared the unique characteristic of generating "irrational hatred" as well as "blind allegiance with no dissent allowed".
Which one of the two was the better speaker? I do not know, but I certainly hope that Dessalines was.
Also, I really believe that he was killed because the Southern mixed race leaders primarily Petion never wanted to follow a black semi-literate ex-slave and one who declared himself emperor at that too! I learned since I was in Haiti that Petion had killed him and it was easy to believe because that's how those people are. They're haters...
Well, just because it is easy to believe does not necessarily make it true. It may be too easy for the average Haitian to believe that Petion ordered the assassination of Dessalines, but I had rather be offered the hard historical evidence. The fact of the matter is that many Haitian leaders, black as charcoal and light as albino, hated Dessalines, not for having led them to independence, but for his uses and misuses of power. Which one of them delivered the fatal blow? Who was THE intellectual leader of the coup? I think that on this 200th anniversary of Dessalines's assassination, we should at least reflect on this and search for the historical truth instead of believing the first person who tells us that Henri Christophe did this or Petion did that, without the least amount of evidence to back up their assertions. You should always remember that many people have invested in sowing divisiveness among us, Haitians of all complexions. Let's put a stop to it. If it is said that X killed Y, let's find out if it were truly X that killed Y, not just because we have heard it from so and so. Furthermore, if X killed Y, it does not logically follow that the complexion of X killed the complexion of Y. Let's stop spreading the hate, folks. Otherwise, we will be doing the work of our own worst enemies.
Finally, I have met some folks who claim to be his descendants.
Hey, I could claim to be the descendant of Jesus Christ or the brothers of Jesus. Can you prove otherwise? I could also claim to be the direct descendant of Toussaint or Caonabo, or to be a distant cousin of Alex Hailey, Martin Luther King or Malcom X. Could anyone of you prove that I am wrong? The way that men spread their spermatozoids all around them, in every willing receptacle (if not through rape, unfortunately), who in the world knows who is and who is not related to any other person????? Being a descendant of Toussaint or Dessalines is of no particular relevance to me, and I may just be one of those descendants. In fact, mathematically, I think that the odds of anyone among us being a direct descendant of Dessalines is pretty significant. So what does all of that mean?
Unfortunately, those people don't like me or my kind. They belong to the Black Afrocentric middle class (like the Noirist Gerard Latortue) and they look down on poor people and those without means. In fact, they would rather make alliances with the light or near white folks regardless of class background. In their view, they have class capital they just need to bleach their skin through intermarriage and the production of mixed children.
Empress, please resist the generalizations. They are not fact based and will induce you in error. I guarantee you.
So, I mourn Dessaline's death and the violent way in which he was killed. However, I reserve the right to say that I don't think that he would have liked me or my kind and for that matter neither would Toussaint.
Empress, I think that there is the distinct possibility that you may be perfectly wrong in those feelings.
Let's honor the memory of our ancestors for what they have bequeathed to us, not for their failings. It's up to us to build on their legacy and achieve a better world
than the one we were born in, several generations later.