Gendering the June Days: Race, Masculinity, and Slave Emancipation in Saint Domingue

TitleGendering the June Days: Race, Masculinity, and Slave Emancipation in Saint Domingue
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsColwill, Elizabeth
JournalJournal of Haitian Studies
Date Published2009

In 1816, Haitian King Henri Christophe announced plans for a memorial to commemorate in perpetuity the Haitian people's emancipation from slavery. He would erect a column engraved with the declaration of independence and names of its male signatories in the Place d'Armes of the Citadel to honor Liberty and Independence. Each year, on the anniversary of independence, it would be the site of a funeral oration to honor the warriors who died in defense of liberty. Given this history, it is not surprising that the story of revolution and emancipation in Saint Domingue should be remembered and recounted in succeeding decades primarily as the story of war and its male combatants. This essay places war, its heroes, and its victims under the analytical lens by focusing on one historic moment in the course of emancipation: the insurrection of Le Cap in June 1793—a moment when the battle over rights and race was joined through claims to manhood and military valor. In the years that followed, white men of privilege and diverse political perspectives relived and refashioned the insurrection and its world-shaking consequences as they spun personal memories into written chronicles of the June Days.

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