John James Audubon

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John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851) was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, hunter, and painter. He painted, catalogued, and described the birds of North America in a manner far superior to what had gone before. Born in the French colony of Saint Domingue (now Haiti) and raised in France as a youth, in his embrace of America and his outsize personality and achievements, he represented the new American people of the United States.

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Early life

Audubon was born in the Les Cayes in the French colony of Saint Domingue[1] on his father's sugar plantation. He was the illegitimate son of Lieutenant Jean Audubon, a French naval officer (and privateer), and his mistress Jeanne Rabin, a chambermaid recently arrived from France. They named the boy Jean Rabin.[2] His mother died when the boy was a few months old, as she had suffered from tropical diseases since arriving on the island. His father already had two mixed-race children by his mulatto housekeeper, Sanitte, and he took up with her again and had another daughter following Jeanne Rabin's death. Sanitte also took care of the infant boy Jean.[3]

During the American Revolution, Jean Audubon was imprisoned by the British. After his release, he helped the American cause.[4] A slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue in 1788 convinced Jean Audubon to sell his holdings and return to France with his French son and infant mixed-race daughter, who was very fair (She was the daughter of Sanitte).[5][6]

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