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From Dessalines to Garvey: the Battles of Psychological Liberation


From Dessalines to Garvey: the Battles of Psychological Liberation

Marcus Garvey Mural at the Martin Luther King Cultural Corridor, Oakland, CA, 2019 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Over two centuries apart, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Marcus Mosiah Garvey espoused ideas and expounded principles of liberation that descendants of Africa (and those who mean them well) ought to take heed. Throughout the centuries the descendants of Africa have “had to face two fundamental impeding factors, once circularly affecting the other; they are economic and psychological…” At this juncture of world history and lived social experiences it is clear that the manufactured “inferiority” complex some developed over time is the outcome of inferior access to material resources, rooted in inferior education (that is substandard or miseducation), lack of agency, and muted political voice. As Garvey noted in The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, “[so] long as Negroes occupy an inferior position among other races and nations of the world, just so long will others be prejudiced against them, because it will be profitable for them to keep up their system of superiority.” The two prodigious and percipient world figures, of the early nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, laid bare the meaning of and trajectory to essential and complete liberation for African descendants, from the odious enslavement system to all other forms of exploitation thereafter.

When Dessalines triumphed in the last military battle (Bataille de Vertières) in November 1803, he recognized that the military victory assured the end of chattel slavery, but the process of the nation’s full liberation had only begun. It remained the responsibility of Haiti’s leadership, and the people, to safeguard their economic and overall sociocultural development.  In his Procès-Verbal de la Proclamation de l’Indépendance d’Haïti (Statement on the Proclamation of the Independence of Haiti)  Dessalines articulated “concise and constructive principles for the new nation…” In October 1804 he explained to the citizenry:  

Natives of Haiti! I stood guard, I fought, sometimes alone, and if I…

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