Paris to commemorate slave rebellion figure of Guadeloupe

The city of Paris has announced the opening of a memorial public park and put up a statue of a black woman involved in an 1802 rebellion against slavery on the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, which continue to be a French colony, officially a Caribbean overseas department and a region of France.

The woman freedom martyr, named only as Solitude, was captured during the uprising by the French authorities, held captive, and ultimately executed the day after giving birth to her child.

Opening a public garden in her honor, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo called Solitude a “heroine” and a “strong symbol”. The Solitude Garden is now located on Place du Général Catroux in north-western Paris, where a statue of her will be erected.

France’s history of slavery has been under new scrutiny, in part because of the US Black Lives Matter; there has been serious soul-searching over its historic colonial and Napoleonic policies.

Who was this brave woman?

Unfortunately very little is known of her, with just one brief written mention in a published 19th-Century history of Guadeloupe written by contemporaries.

The account records that Solitude, a young black mother of African descent, was arrested among “a band of insurgents” during the uprising against slavery -which was reinstated by Napoleon after being abolished during the French Revolution.

The record states that she was sentenced to death but allowed to live in captivity long enough to give birth to her child before being put to death.

Guadeloupe, and interestingly UNESCO recognizes her importance as a woman, mother, and freedom fighter. The local history honors her with a statue in Les Abymes, the largest urban area in Guadeloupe, located on the west side of the island of Grande-Terr, a part of the metropolitan area of Pointe-à-Pitre.