Haiti list discussion: July 2002

This discussion was sparked by the following newspaper announcement:

Men fought against British

North Miami officials recently met with their Savannah, Ga., counterparts to begin a groundbreaking effort to commemorate Haitians involvement in the Revolutionary War.

About 750 Haitian freemen fought alongside colonial troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah on Oct. 9, 1779. The role of Haitian soldiers in the battle had long been ignored, North Miami Mayor Josaphat Celestin said.

The delegations met Friday to establish a monument to be installed in the Battlefield Park Heritage Center, under construction near the Savannah battlesite.

Officials from both cities cemented the relationship that grew over the creation of the monument during a reception in December 2001 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. No date has been set for completion of the monument.

Savannah Mayor Floyd Adams Jr. pledged a plot of park land to the South Florida Haitian American Historical Society, which is funding the monument.

“It's one of the most exciting things, to be involved in from the creation to the reality,'' said businessman Richard Shinhoster, who helped push for the monument in Savannah.

“To see a monument in downtown Savannah and the commemoration of the involvement of the Haitian Americans, it's a dream come true. This will help educate Americans but also Haitian youth about the significant contribution their ancestors made.”

The monument's focal point will be an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Henry Christophe, the first king of Haiti, who participated in the battle as a 14-year-old drummer boy. Behind the statue will be statues of other soldiers who followed him into battle. Six panels inscribed with the soldiers' names will surround the memorial. Haitian-Canadian sculptor Gregroire Anocles will design the statues.

The Haitian-American Historical Society will submit an application for approval to the Historic Site and Monument Commission in Savannah as the final step.

The city is making an effort to include all nations who had a part in the war, Adams said.

Savannah officials invited North Miami officials to tour the city, where they were greeted with a 21-gun salute and visited the graves of the Haitian soldiers, Celestin said.

The movement to recognize the Haitian soldiers has also spilled into Savannah's public school curriculum. Textbooks will be rewritten to include the contributions of Haitian troops, Celestin said.

“It means recognition for our efforts, that we were here all along, that Haiti was a part of the effort to liberate America and that they came here as free men, not as slaves,” Celestin said. “We hope this country will recognize this.”

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