Roumain, Jacques



Writer, political activist – Born in 1907, he was educated in Belgium and Switzerland but returned home in 1927 to fight for Haitian nationalism. As president of the Haitian Patriotic Youth League, Roumain was instrumental in organising the agitation that brought an end to the US occupation of Haiti (1915-34). He was arrested in December 1928, released in August 1929, and arrested again in October, 1929, but despite this he was a productive writer, publishing several collections of stories and poetry. He started the magazine, La Revue Indigene, and published the book, La Montagne Ensorcelée (1931).

In 1934, he founded the Haitian Communist Party but was soon arrested and, after three years in prison, he was exiled. In his travels in Europe and the US, Roumain forged close friendships with other writers, notably Langston Hughes, who translated some of his poetry.

With the change in government in Haiti, Roumain was allowed to return to Haiti, and 1941 he established the Bureau d’Ethnologie in an effort to legitimise the study of Haiti’s peasantry. In 1943, President Lescot appointed him chargé d’affaires in Mexico, where he completed two of his most influential books, the poetry collection Bois d’ébène (Ebony Wood) and the novel, Gouverneurs de la Rosée (Masters of the Dew). When he died in August 1944, at the age of 37, Roumain was one of the most prominent pan-African poets, acclaimed in Europe and Latin America.

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