Dessalines Day in Haiti in 2020

Dessalines Day in Haiti in 2020
Jean-Jacques Dessalines featured on the 250 Gourdes bank note marking the Bicentennial of Independence of Haiti.
  How long until Dessalines Day?
This holiday next takes place in 337 days.
  Dates of Dessalines Day in Haiti
2021 Haiti Sun, Oct 17 National Holiday
2020 Haiti Sat, Oct 17 National Holiday
2019 Haiti Thu, Oct 17 National Holiday
2018 Haiti Wed, Oct 17 National Holiday
  Summary
Commemorates the death of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti's first ruler, in 1806

When is Dessalines Day?

Dessalines Day is a national holiday in Haiti observed on October 17th each year.

It commemorates the life of Jean-Jacques Dessalines on the anniversary of his assassination in 1806.

History of Dessalines Day

The Haitian Revolution is regarded as the largest and most successful slave rebellion in the Western Hemisphere.  The rebellion against French authority began in 1791. Toussaint Louverture emerged as the leader of the revolt against the French. Napoleon sent troops to the colony to restore French authority and Louverture was captured in 1802 and died in a French jail in 1803.

Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a lieutenant to Louverture, then took the leadership of the revolution, defeating French troops at the Battle of Vertières on November 18th 1803. France then withdrew its remaining 7,000 troops from the island.

On January 1st 1804, in the city of Gonaïves, Dessalines officially declared the former colony's independence as a free republic, renaming it "Haiti" after its indigenous name. He also freed all slaves making Haiti the first country in the Americas to permanently abolish slavery. Though it wasn't all good news for the former slaves, who either had to continue to work on the plantations or join his army.

It was also in 1804 that Dessalines showed the extent of his bloodthirst, massacring all the French people on the island, resulting in the deaths of up to 5,000 people.

Dessalines became the first Emperor of Haiti in October 1804. He was made Emperor for life in 1805, which proved accurate but short-lived as he was assassinated by his political rivals in October 1806.

Despite his impressive achievements in driving his country to independence, if you were to travel back to Haiti in the 19th century, you might be surprised to find that Dessalines was a far from popular figure and that his reputation was that of a tyrant. It was only in the 20th century, that his legacy as an icon of nationalism and a founding father was developed. His rehabilitation was complete by 1903, when the national anthem of Haiti, "La Dessalinienne", was named in his honour. (The lyrics don't mention Dessalines.)

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