Jean-Jacques Dessalines 20 September 1758 – 17 October 1806) was a leader of the Haitian Revolution and the first ruler of an independent Haiti under the 1805 constitution. Under Dessalines, Haiti became the first country in the Americas to permanently abolish slavery. Initially regarded as governor-general, Dessalines was later named Emperor Jacques I of Haiti (1804–1806) by the Generals of the Haitian Revolution Army. He is regarded as one of the founding fathers of Haiti.
Dessalines served as an officer in the French army, when the colony was fending off Spanish and British incursions. Later he rose to become a commander in the revolt against France. As Toussaint Louverture’s principal lieutenant, he led many successful engagements, including the Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot.
After the betrayal and capture of Toussaint Louverture in 1802, Dessalines became the leader of the revolution. He defeated a French army at the Battle of Vertières in 1803. Declaring Haiti an independent nation in 1804, Dessalines was chosen by a council of generals to assume the office of governor-general. He ordered the 1804 Haiti massacre of French settlers in Haiti, resulting in the deaths of between 3,000 and 5,000 people, but declared that all other whites such as the Polish Haitianscould remain in the new country. In September 1804, he was proclaimed emperor by the Generals of the Haitian Revolution Army and ruled in that capacity until being assassinated in 1806.