Vincent Ogé (ca. 1755-1791)

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Vincent Ogé was a member of the free colored planter class in Saint-Domingue. He traveled to Paris, France during the French Revolution and fought alongside Julien Raimond for the rights of the island’s free colored people. His activism led to his execution in 1791.

Vincent Ogé Jeune (the Younger) was born circa 1755 in Dondon parish in Saint-Domingue, (present-day Haiti). He was born to Jacques Ogé, a white man, and Angélique Ossé, a mulatta. He grew up in a wealthy family that had inherited a coffee plantation. At a young age, he was sent to Bordeaux, France to be the apprentice of a goldsmith. This allowed him to build his fortune as a merchant and returned to Saint-Domingue where he soon became part of the higher ranks of society as one of the wealthiest free colored planter of Saint-Domingue.

In Paris, September 1789, Ogé started working with a small group of free colored artisans and servants: the Colons Américains (American Colonists). Together, they wrote a cahier de doléances (book of grievances) concerning the French colonies, addressed to the National Assembly. Among other things, this text demanded the representation of free blacks in the government, the possibility of being part of the justice system and the military, the right to education and, most of all, for black and white people to be treated equally. This petition was rejected by the French National Assembly. Vincent Ogé was later a member of the Société d’Amis des Noirs (Society of the Friends of Blacks) in Paris, which fought for the rights of black people.

After further petitioning, in March 28 of 1790, the National Assembly in Paris ratified a decree which, although it did not mention people of color, granted colonies the right to form a local Assembly, and allowed all free people of the colony to be part of this local government. However, much to the disappointment of Ogé and other activists, this decree was never fully enforced.

In October 1790, Ogé returned to his hometown and with the help of Jean-Baptiste Chavanne, started gathering fellow people of color who were likewise eager to enforce justice. In a letter to the Assembly in Le Cap, he warned that he was ready to take up arms if the March 1790 decree was not enforced. Ogé and Chavanne were met with no response, except from the comte Peinier, governor of the colony, who demanded that they stopped their activism. Ogé, Chavanne, and their followers, who were now wanted by the colonial army, fought back before eventually fleeing to the Spanish part of the island. In November 1790, they were caught and sent back to Le Cap, where both Ogé and Chavanne were eventually executed by the wheel in the city’s public square in February 1791.

Vincent Ogé’s execution led to rising tensions between white people and people of color in Saint-Domingue. Although he was not an abolitionist, his activism and the violence of his execution are most definitely linked to the slave uprisingthat became the Haitian Revolution in August 1791, as well as the extension of voting rights to free colored people by the National Assembly in Paris that same year.