The Priest and the Prophetess: Abbé Ouvière, Romaine Rivière, and the Revolutionary Atlantic World

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By 1791, the French Revolution had spread to Haïti, where slaves and free blacks alike had begun demanding civil rights guaranteed in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man. Enter Romaine-la-Prophétesse, a free black Dominican coffee farmer who dressed in women's clothes and claimed that the Virgin Mary was his godmother. Inspired by mystical revelations from the Holy Mother, he amassed a large and volatile following of insurgents who would go on to sack countless plantations and conquer the coastal cities of Jacmel and Léogâne.

For this brief period, Romaine counted as his political adviser the white French Catholic priest and physician Abbé Ouvière, a renaissance man of cunning politics who would go on to become a pioneering figure in early American science and medicine. Brought together by Catholicism and the turmoil of the revolutionary Atlantic, the priest and the prophetess would come to symbolize the enlightenment ideals of freedom and a more just social order in the eighteenth-century Caribbean.

Drawing on extensive archival research, Terry Rey offers a major contribution to our understanding of Catholic mysticism and traditional African religious practices at the time of the Haitian Revolution and reveals the significant ways in which religion and race intersected in the turbulence and triumphs of revolutionary France, Haïti, and early republican America.