Jean-Jacques Dessalines (Haitian Creole: Janjak Desalin) was a leader of the Haitian Revolution and the 1st ruler of an independent Haiti under the 1801 constitution. Initially regarded as Governor-General, Dessalines later named himself Emperor Jacques I of Haiti (1804–1806).
He is known as a founding father of Haiti.
Dessalines served as an officer in the French army when the colony was trying to withstand Spanish and British incursions. Later he rose to become a commander in the revolt against France. As Toussaint Louverture’s principal lieutenant, he led many successful engagements, including the Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot.
After the betrayal and capture of Toussaint Louverture in 1802, Dessalines became the leader of the revolution. He defeated Napoleon’s forces at the Battle of Vertières in 1803. Declaring Haiti an independent nation in 1804, Dessalines was chosen by a council of generals to assume the office of Governor-General. He ordered the 1804 Haiti Massacre of the white Haitian minority, resulting in the deaths of between 3,000 and 5,000 people, between February and April 1804.
In September 1804, he proclaimed himself Emperor and ruled in that capacity until being assassinated in 1806.
Read about his death and legacy at: Daily Black History Facts