Images: Saint-Domingue and the French Abolition

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Jean-Baptiste Mars Belley

Anne Louis Girodet-Trioson (1767-1824). Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Belley, Deputy of Santo Domingo (1747–1805), 1797.

Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles, France. Copyright Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY.

Jean-Baptiste Mars Belley

Although enslaved Saint Domingans had been banned from entering Louisiana as early as 1763, other people from the island were welcome a few years later. Several men who later became leaders of the Haitian Revolution, such as Henri Christophe, André Rigaud, Louis-Jacques Beauvais, Alexandre Pétion, and Julien Raimond, served with French forces in the American Revolution. They were among 545 Colored Volunteer Chasseurs and fought in Savannah, Georgia, in 1779. They acquired crucial military experience as they absorbed the new republic's founding ideals of freedom and equality. Jean-Baptiste Mars Belley (ca. 1747-1805) was one of them. He was only sixteen. Belley was born on Gorée Island, Senegal, and was deported to Saint Domingue when still a child. He bought his freedom and enrolled in the army. He was one of six Saint Domingan representatives to the French Convention in Paris that declared the abolition of slavery in the French colonies on February 4, 1794. Belley is credited for having delivered a passionate speech against slavery to the French representatives. He joined Toussaint L'Ouverture in his fight for independence and was deported to France in 1802 with L'Ouverture and several hundred other revolutionaries. He died in jail in Brittany in 1805.

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