Series: McGill-Queen's French Atlantic Worlds Series (Book 5)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press (May 21, 2020)
This book tells the story of the Battle of Vertières, fought in 1803 between indigenous Haitian forces under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Dessalines and a French expeditionary army commanded by Napoleon. The battle marked the culmination of a thirteen-year revolutionary struggle to end slavery and the dawn of an independent Haiti. Yet despite its pivotal importance to the history of Haiti, France, and the Americas, the Battle of Vertières has been struck from the record. The Cry of Vertières is the first book-length study of the battle, drawing from an array of sources including military correspondence, Haitian literature, art, and popular music. The event itself is recounted in vivid detail: it is a dramatic story of a volunteer army of former slaves, seeking the promises of freedom and citizenship held out by the revolution, defeating a colonial power determined to re-enslave them. The book also examines why the history of the battle has been suppressed in France - an act of erasure of a humiliating defeat - and why it remains fragile even in Haiti. Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec explains that today Vertières is both a key lieu de mémoire that embodies reconciliation, pride, and strength for the Haitian people, and a figure of speech exploited by politicians to reinforce their power. Describing a decisive yet largely forgotten moment in the revolutionary history of the Americas, The Cry of Vertières makes an essential contribution to the complex subjects of race, memory, colonialism, and cultural nationalism in present-day France and Haiti.
Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec, professor of history at the Université de Sherbrooke, is the co-director of the digital project Marronnage in the Atlantic World: Sources and Life Trajectories.
Jonathan Kaplansky is a literary translator. He lives in Montreal.