My response to Ronda Racha Penrice, the author of the article entitled “North America’s first black president, Vicente Guerrero, predates Obama by 180 years,” which he wrote for the Grio.
You have written an informative article on Vicente Guerrero, but it does not take into full account other black presidents in the Western world. Alexandre Petion was actually the first black president in the Americas and the Western world. He served as President of Haiti from 17 October 1806 to 29 March 1818. Jean Pierre-Boyer served as the second Black President in the Western World and Haiti –from 30 March 1818 to13 February 1843. Both Presidents Petion and Boyer preceded Vicente Guerrero, who became Mexico’s third president in 1829.
In the article, Penrice makes two important assertions:
1. “The fact is that Mexico, not the United States, holds claim to that black history milestone. Vicente Guerrero preceded President Obama by over a century for that distinction. But don’t feel bad that you didn’t know that. Most Mexicans don’t either.”
2. “In 1829, Guerrero, whose military prowess was critical to Mexico attaining independence, became the nation’s third president (second by some accounts). Very liberal, even by today’s standards, Guerrero believed in public schools and supported the arts and sciences. As president, he taxed the rich, protected small business, ended the death penalty and supported villages having their own representatives.”
In fact, Haiti has given the Americas and the Western World, the “first Black Governor” (Toussaint Louverture, 1 January 1791-6 May 1802, of colonial Saint-Domingue); the “first Black Emperor” (Jean-Jacques Dessalines, 1 January 1804-17 October 1806) who gave us Haiti’s Declaration of Independence; the “first Black King” (Henri Christophe, 17 October 1806-8 October 1820); “first Black President” (17 October 1806 -29 March 1818); and the “first Black woman [Acting] President” (Ertha Pascal-Trouillot, 13 March 1990-7 February 1991).
Technically, Henri Christophe is the first Black President in the Western World and the Americas. He became the President of the Republic of Haiti in February 17, 1807 to March 28, 1811. However, in history, he is best remembered as a King not President. He was crowned as the first King of Haiti in March 28, 1811; his kingship ended in October 8, 1820, after he committed suicide.