Meet Georges Bissaou, the Black Spanish General whose slave revolt sparked the Haiti Revolution in 1700s 

Georges Biassou, Black Spanish General/Photo credit: Alchetron

Georges Biassou was employed on the Jesuit Sugar estate as a slave driver at Haut du Cap, the colonial capital of present-day Haiti. He was the son of two slaves, Carlos and Diana, who lived in the French colony of Saint Domingue. His mother worked at the Providence Hospital with the Fathers of Charity in Cap-Francais. 

Biassou rose to national attention when he became the face of the Haiti revolution in the late 1700s, according to the Enslaved. The slave revolt he led began when he met a group of slave drivers on August 14, 1792, at the Lenormand de Mézy Plantation in Haut du Cap. 

However, before their revolt kickstarted, thousands of slaves in Northern Haiti invaded their plantation setting their fields and structures ablaze. Biassou and another leader, Jean-Francois, took over the command of the slave army after the passing away of the leader of the revolt, Boukman Dutty. 

Historical accounts often suggest that the father of the Haiti revolution is Toussaint Louverture but it was the revolt engineered by Biassou and Jean-Francois that fueled the uprising. In 1791, Biassou and his fellow leaders dragged the Haiti Colonial Assembly to court to agree on a peace pact. 

The initial objective of the revolt was to demand freedom for the slaves, but, as the struggles continued, they changed the goal of the uprising. Biassou and the other leaders asked that the slave owners grant the slaves and their families freedom as they return to the plantations. The French authorities shot down their request as well as other offers, which spurred the revolt. 

The two leaders of the revolt, Biassou and Jean-Francois, launched separate attacks on French-controlled cities. Biassou directed his attacks on Cap-Francais, while Jean-Francois took on the border towns lying between Spanish Santo Domingo.

Due to the pressure from the revolt and abolition movement in France, the French National Assembly allowed freed slaves to cast their ballots in national elections. But, the reality was different in Haiti as the Colonial Assembly there provided fertile grounds for slavery to thrive. This posture took a different turn following the overthrow of French King Louis XVI in August of 1792. 

The Crown of Spain and England waged a war against France for killing King Louis. Spain and England stretched their hands to ask for the support of the revolting slave leaders in a bid to control Haiti. Biassou and his fellow leaders entered into a pact with the Spanish Crown in 1793 while they continued their rebellion against France. 

However, in 1794, there was a power struggle between the two leaders over who controlled the Spanish troops fighting against the French army. In the same year, one of the leaders, Toussaint, aligned with the French forces when the French Assembly outlawed slavery. Biassou and Jean-Francois lend their allegiance to the Spanish Crown. However, a peace pact signed by Spain and France in 1795  saw the disbanding of the army led by Biassou and Jean-Francois. 

When the Bissaou-led troops attempted to camp in Cuba on December 31, 1795, they were barred from doing so by the authorities in Havana. Bissaou decided to sail to Spanish Florida, where he settled in St. Augustine with his wife, her mother and siblings and 17 of his former soldiers and their family. 

When he arrived he was elevated to the position of Spanish General. He was placed in charge of the black militia in Florida. He was one of the highest-ranking black officers in the 1700s. Jean-Francois headed to Spain, where he also took shelter. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 24, 2022


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