Posted on May 25, 2021

Columbus Haters Led Effort to Rename Street for Murderous Haitian Emperor

Jon Levine, New York Post, May 22, 2021

Some of the city’s biggest elected Christopher Columbus haters spearheaded an effort in the City Council to rename a Brooklyn street after Haitian emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines — who is infamous for a brutal massacre of thousands of white settlers in 1804.

In 2018, then-City Councilman Jumaane Williams and Councilwoman Inez Barron celebrated the addition of Dessalines’ name to the corner of Rogers and Newkirk avenues in Flatbush.

“Jean-Jacques Dessalines was a revolutionary who fought for his people and overthrew an oppressive regime who brutally enslaved and persecuted the Haitian people,” Williams, now the city’s Public Advocate, said triumphantly at the time.


Williams and Barron were two of the sponsors of the City Council bill to create Jean-Jacques Dessalines Boulevard, but the duo has been considerably less charitable to Columbus and have frequently called for the Italian American hero to be banished from the city streetscape.


Dessalines, a Haitian revolutionary hero who ended slavery and French colonization after defeating Napoleon’s troops on the island, holds a comparable place in Haitian history to President George Washington, historian Philippe R. Girard told The Post.


“It was a widespread massacre … Not just soliders, but civilians and women as well,” Girard said. “The troops Napoleon sent to Haiti to maintain slavery had started massacres against the black population. There was a lot of resentment and Jean-Jacques Dessalines saw it as a tit for tat.”

The campaign began in February 1804 as Dessalines and his generals worried about attempts by the colonial population to re-enslave the newly emancipated Haitians. On Dessalines’ orders, troops fanned out across the country and rounded up white French residents. Many were decapitated or run through with bayonets. {snip}

Between 5,000 and 10,000 were slain, Girard estimated. {snip}

“Contemporaries generally described the white population as virtually annihilated, and indeed to this day Haiti is the most ethnically African nation in the Caribbean,” Girard wrote.


As the City Council’s parks and recreation committee held hearings on the renaming, supporters of Dessalines acknowledged the murders but insisted his crimes should be viewed in their historical context.

“When we honor many of our historical figures, think about Dessalines of back then and not use the lens of today to criticize what was war,” Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte — who claims to be a great, great, great granddaughter of the emperor — said {snip}