The Four Big Words: Happy Black History Month from Jean-Jacques Dessalines!

The most important words in the Haitian Declaration of Independence (Acte de l’Indépendance), which Haiti’s founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaimed on January 1, 1804 to the newly-emancipated enslaved African population in Haiti, are as follows:

· Liberté (liberty): it is used 10 times in the document.
· Indépendance (independence): it is used 9 times in the document.
· Bonheur (happiness): it is used 4 times in the document.
· Libre (free): It is used 6 times in the document.

In the Haitian Declaration of Independence, the words liberty and independence refer to both political liberty and political independence of the newly-established nation or Republic of Haiti. The words happiness and free allude to both personal happiness and personal freedom, respectively. In other words, for Dessalines, the destiny of the nation of Haiti is intimately linked to the destiny of the people of Haiti.

Jean-Jacques Dessalines envisioned an independent, sovereign, and free Haiti wherein its citizen will experience the fruit of the Haitian Revolution: happiness, freedom, liberty, and independence. Those four key words of the Haitian Declaration of Independence not only represent the will and determination of the new people of Haiti and the founder; they are also sacred words of empowerment, resistance, and human dignity that look forward to future possibilities and potentialities in the land of Haiti—toward the common good and human flourishing.

Happy 2nd day of Black History Month!

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