Romaine-la-Prophétesse

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Romaine-la-Prophétesse ("Romaine the Prophetess") was born around 1750 in the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo and assigned male at birth.[1][2] Romaine moved to the French colony of Saint-Domingue and became a free Black coffee plantation owner and an influential figure there.[3] In 1791, as the Haitian Revolution began, Romaine and wife Marie-Roze Adam[4] gathered supporters at their plantation (Trou Coffy) to defend it from armed whites who had massed nearby,[5] and led an uprising of thousands of slaves, who took weapons and supplies from and sometimes burned plantations and businesses across southern Haiti and freed other slaves there.[6]

At the same time, Romaine began to identify as a prophetess,[2][7] dressed like a woman,[8][9][10] and spoke of being possessed by a female spirit,[2][11] but also reportedly identified as a godson of the Virgin Mary,[12] intended (according to one critic) to become "king of Saint-Domingue",[13] and reportedly used masculine pronouns in self-references in dictated letters. Romaine has therefore been interpreted as perhaps genderfluid[14] or transgender,[14][8] or might have been bigender.

For a time, Romaine controlled much of the countryside of southern Haiti, and two of its main cities, Léogâne and Jacmel.[15][16][17][13] In 1792, however, a coalition of white and conservative free Black residents[18][11] and French forces defeated the Trou Coffy uprising and arrested Marie-Roze, although Romaine escaped capture and disappeared from history.[19] Romaine-la-Prophétesse appears in Victor Hugo's novel Bug-Jargal (as a man), and Mayra Montero's fiction In the Palm of Darkness (as a woman).[20][21]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Terry Rey, The Priest and the Prophetess: Abbé Ouvière, Romaine Rivière, and the Revolutionary Atlantic World (2017, ISBN 978-0190625849), pp. 27-28, 48 (discussing the lack of clarity over whether Romain(e) Rivière, given in French records, is Romaine's exact birth name or only a gallicization of Román Rivera; it is also unclear whether the feminine spelling Romaine or the masculine Romain is original), 50-51, 232
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Terry Rey, "Kongolese Catholic Influences on Haitian Popular Catholicism", in Linda M. Heywood (editor), Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora (2002), pp. 270-271
  3. Rey (2017), pp. 30, 137
  4. Robert D. Taber, The Mystery of Marie Rose: Family, Politics, and the Origins of the Haitian Revolution, January 6, 2016
  5. Rey (2017), pp. 27-31
  6. Rey (2017), pp. 32-35, 44, 48-49
  7. Terry Rey, Bourdieu on Religion: Imposing Faith and Legitimacy (2014, Routledge, ISBN 9781317490883), pp. 119-120
  8. 8.0 8.1 Mary Grace Albanese, "Unraveling the Blood Line: Pauline Hopkins's Haitian Genealogies", in J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, volume 7, number 2, Fall 2019, p. 234
  9. Maria Cristina Fumagalli, On the Edge: Writing the Border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic (2015), p. 111
  10. Maria Cristina Fumagalli et al. (eds.), The Cross-Dressed Caribbean: Writing, Politics, Sexualities (2014), p. 11
  11. 11.0 11.1 Jeremy D. Popkin, A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution (2011), p. 51
  12. Rey (2017), pp. 58-59
  13. 13.0 13.1 Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below (1990), p. 128
  14. 14.0 14.1 Rey (2017), pp. 52-53
  15. Rey (2017), pp. 14, 30, 39-43, 52, 137, 152
  16. Colin A. Palmer, Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History (2006), p. 1972
  17. Matthias Middell, Megan Maruschke, The French Revolution as a Moment of Respatialization (2019), p. 71
  18. Rey (2017), p. 137
  19. Rey (2017), p. 137, 157-159
  20. Rey (2017), p. 219
  21. Persephone Braham, From Amazons to Zombies: Monsters in Latin America (2015), p. 160