Henri Christophe

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Henri Christophe (sometimes anglicized as Henry Christopher) (6 October 1767 – 8 October 1820) was a key leader in the Haitian Revolution, winning independence from France in 1804. On 17 February 1807, after the creation of a separate nation in the north, Christophe was elected President of the State of Haiti. On 26 March 1811, he was proclaimed Henri I, King of Haïti. He is also known for constructing the Citadelle Laferrière.


Early life

Born Christopher Henry probably in Grenada,[1] the son of Christophe, a freeman, Christophe was brought to Saint Domingue as a slave in the northern region. In 1779 he may have served with the French Forces as a drummer boy in the American Revolution in the Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Dominigue, a regiment composed of gens de couleur. They fought at the Siege of Savannah.[2]

As an adult, Christophe worked as a mason, sailor, stable hand, waiter, and billiard maker.[3] He worked in and managed a hotel restaurant in Cap-Français, the capital of the French colony of Saint-Domingue, where he became skilled at dealing with the grand blancs, as the wealthy white French planters were called. Such political skills also served him well when he became an officer in the military and leader in the country. He was said to have obtained his freedom as a young man, before the Slave Uprising of 1791. Sometime after he had settled in Haiti he brought his sister Marie there, where she married and had issue.[4]

Beginning with the slave uprising of 1791, Christophe distinguished himself in the Haïtian Revolution and quickly rose to be an officer. He fought for years with Toussaint Louverture in the north, helping defeat the French, the Spanish, British, and finally French national troops. By 1802 he was a general under Toussaint Louverture.

Independent Haiti

After the French deported Toussaint Louverture to France, and fighting continued under Rochambeau, Jean Jacques Dessalines recognized they wanted to reenslave the blacks. He led the fight to defeat French forces. As leader, Dessalines declared Saint-Domingue's independence and the new name of Haiti in 1804.

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