June 4th marks the birth date of Jacques Roumain (1907-1944), respected Haitian scholar, writer, and politician. Roumain, considered one of the most prominent Haitian authors, was born in Port-au-Prince where he was educated in the Catholic school system. He went on to pursue his studies in Switzerland and traveled throughout Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland) before returning to Haiti at age twenty.
In Haiti, he founded La Revue indigène: les arts et la vie [The Indigenous Review: Arts and Life], along with Philippe Thoby-Marcelin, Carl Brouard, and Antonio Vieux. Because of his political activism (among other things, he founded the Haitian Communist Party in 1934 and was strongly opposed to the United States’ occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934), he was arrested repeatedly and later exiled by President Sténio Vincent. During his years in exile, Roumain studied ethnography at Columbia University in New York. Here, he worked and established relationships with many prominent pan-African writers, artists, and poets of the time, including Langston Hughes. Among his many literary connections, Roumain developed a close friendship with poet Nicolás Guillén in Cuba, where he lived for almost a year.
With a change in government in Haiti, Roumain was allowed to return to his native country. Upon returning, he founded the Office of Ethnology. In 1943, President Élie Lescot appointed him chargé d’affaires in Mexico, where his newly found creative freedom allowed him to complete two of his most influential books, the poetry collection Bois d’ébène [Ebony Wood] and the novel Gouverneurs de la Rosée [translated by Langston Hughes as Masters of the Dew], which has been translated into many languages. Other works include Les fantoches and La montagne ensorcelée.
By the time of his death at the age of 37, Roumain had become an acclaimed writer in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Europe.
For biography and more information (in English), see http://www.echodhaiti.com/people/roumainj.html
For photo and biography (in French), see http://www.lehman.cuny.edu/ile.en.ile/paroles/roumain.html