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"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Haitian Writers Remember John Brown 

The Center for Research on Globalization’s website, The Global Researcher, features an open letter to the leaders of South Africa in acknowledgement of South African support of Haiti. The authors, Jean Saint-Vil and Darlène Lozis, address President Jacob Zuma and past President Thabo Mbeki, expressing thanks, not only on the basis of a “shared African ancestry” but also “for the common experience that our two nations share in over 500 years of struggle against white supremacist violence.” In keeping with “an age-old Haitian tradition of paying due gratitude and homage” to those who “have stood firm and constant in the revolutionary fight against injustice and barbarism, any and everywhere,” Saint-Vil and Lozis recalled Haiti’s memory of anti-slavery freedom fighters in the U.S.A., such as black leaders Gabriel [Prosser], Denmark Vesey, and Nat Turner, all of whom were inspired by the Haitian liberation Revolution under L’Ouverture and Dessalines.  Not restricting their tribute to “race” or color, Saint-Vil and Lozis write the following:

Back in the 1800s, while so-called “white liberals” in the Americas and Europe were paying lip service to the cause of human brotherhood and universal freedom, with “la société des amis des Noirs” agitating for an extra day of rest for the millions of enslaved Africans, there stood in the United States of North-America, a beautiful human soul named John Brown who, contrarily to the self-styled “liberals”, had refused to advocate for “slavery light”. Rather, Brown took up arms, joined his African brothers and demanded that racial slavery - the absolute evil - be immediately and forever eradicated from the face of earth. . . . History records that, following Brown’s December 2, 1859 hanging, Haiti went to great lengths to express her gratitude to this sincere revolutionary leader who was willing to shed away white privilege and commit race and class suicide for the benefit of humanity. During three days of national mourning for John Brown's execution, flags in Port-au-Prince were flown at half mast. A solemn mass was held in the cathedral, with the active participation of President Fabre Nicholas Geffard. It is also then that the main boulevard of Port-au-Prince was named Avenue John Brown. The Revue de Commerce, which declared "the death of John Brown to be a crime against humanity,” wrote “while waiting the happy day of the regeneration of our enslaved brethren, let us raise in our hearts our altar to John Brown, the immortal benefactor of our race, the holy victim of our cause, and let us adopt, as our sister and friend, his worthy and unfortunate widow.” Indeed, all over the island, collections were made and subscriptions started in behalf of the widow of John Brown. They collected twenty thousand dollars for Brown's family.

Citing an old Haitian proverb (“When you see old bone by the road, be mindful that it had once carried flesh and muscles”), the authors proceed to discuss Haiti’s aspirations despite ongoing struggle against poverty and political turmoil, and their concern that former President Aristide be suitably treated in his return to Haiti. They continue by referring to the “strange collection of modern-day missionaries who are busy spewing out prophesies of gloom and doom in certain North-American and European publications whose “hateful message” in opposition to Aristide’s return “is nothing new or out-of-character. “They know all too well why ‘this return’ represents a major blow to the face of white supremacist racism and a serious defeat of global banditry.

Indeed, in December 1859, while the multitude mourned the passing of a great human being, there were strange folks who met the killing of John Brown with celebration. Back then, the famous European writer, Victor Hugo wrote a thoughtful letter of condolences and sympathy, addressed specifically to the People of Hayti, in which he stated: “ I have been sadly deceived in that fraternity of races, the Southern States of the American Union. In killing Brown, they have committed a crime which will take its place among the calamities of history.”

See Jean Saint-Vil and Darlène Lozis, “Haitians Say Ngiyabonga (Thank You) South-Africa!” GlobalResearch.ca (24 February 2011)

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