Louis Delgrès

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Bust of Louis Delgrès in Petit-Bourg

Louis Delgrès (2 August 1766 – 28 May 1802) was a leader of the movement in Guadeloupe resisting reoccupation and thus the reinstitution of slavery by Napoleonic France in 1802.[1]


Delgrès was mulatto, born free in Saint-Pierre, Martinique.[2] A military officer for Revolutionary France experienced in the wars with Great Britain, Delgrès took over the resistance movement from Magloire Pélage after it became evident that Pélage was loyal to Napoleon. Delgrès believed that the "tyrant" Napoleon had betrayed both the ideals of the Republic and the interests of France's colored citizens, and intended to fight to the death. The Jacobin government had granted the slaves their freedom, in Guadeloupe and other French colonies, but Napoleon attempted to reinstate slavery throughout the French Empire in 1802.[3]

The French army, led by Richepanse, drove Delgrès into Fort Saint Charles, which was held by formerly enslaved Guadeloupians. After realizing that he could not prevail and refusing to surrender, Delgrès was left with roughly 1000 men and some women.

At the Battle of Matouba on 28 May 1802, Delgrès and his followers ignited their gunpowder stores, committing suicide in the process, in an attempt to kill as many of the French troops as possible.[4]

Legacy and honours[edit]

In April 1998, Delgrès was officially admitted to the French Panthéon, although the actual location of his remains is unknown.[1] Delgrès' memorial is opposite that of Toussaint Louverture, leader of the Haitian Revolution, the location of whose remains is also a mystery.

Located near the Fort Delgrès, in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, a memorial bust of Delgrès was erected during the bicentennial of the rebellion, in 2002.[5]

He is honoured in street names in Menilmontant, Paris; Vaureal, Val d'Oise; and at Saint-Francois, Petit-Canal and Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe.

The contemporary French Caribbean blues trio Delgres is named after Delgrès.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dubois, Laurent (2009). Daniel J. Walkowitz, Lisa Maya Knauer (ed.). "Haunting Delgrès". Contested Histories in Public Space: Memory, Race, and Nation. Duke University Press: 312. ISBN 978-0822391425.
  2. ^ "Louis Delgrès, le colonel anti-esclavagiste" [Louis Delgrès, the anti-slavery colonel]. L'histoire des Antilles et de l'Afrique (in French). Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  3. ^ C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the San Domingo Revolution, 1st ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1963.
  4. ^ Moitt, Bernard (1996). David Barry Gaspar (ed.). "Slave women and Resistance in the French Caribbean". More Than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas. Indiana University Press: 243. ISBN 0-253-33017-3.
  5. ^ "Memorial in homage to Delgrès - Basse Terre - Cartographie des Mémoires de l'Esclavage". www.mmoe.llc.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Delgres │Official Website │About". Delgres - Official Website - Home. Retrieved 13 August 2018.

External links[edit]