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Sanité Béliar (1781 - 1802)

Updated: Jan 17

The Fighting Tigress

Sanité Bélair (born Suzanne Bélair), was a Haitian freedom fighter and revolutionary during the Haitian Revolution. Sanité, whom Dessalines described as “a tigress,” is formally recognized by the Haitian Government as a National Heroine of Haiti.


Bélair was born Afranchi (free person of color) in 1781 in Haiti. The Affranchis (many of whom were mixed-race) of Saint Domingues had many restrictions placed on them by their colonizers, but were allowed to receive some education and own land.

In 1796, at the age of 15, Sanité married Brigade Commander and nephew of Toussaint Louverture, Charles Bélair. Sanité Bélair went on to fight along side her husband in the Haitian Revolution. She eventually rose to the role of a lieutenant serving under Toussaint Louverture and Jean-François Papillon.


Sanité Bélair’s impact and influence was so significant that she had a bounty placed on her head in 1801 along with other revolution leaders. Sanité went into hiding but was eventually found and captured. Hoping to save his wife, Charles Bélair attempted to trade his life in exchange for Sanités'. Unwilling to negotiate the French colonizers took them both for trial.


Both Sanité and her husband were sentenced to execution - Sanité was to be beheaded and Charles execution by firing squad. But Sanité demanded a soldier’s execution, death by firing squad, as opposed to being beheaded. Beheading was customary for women. In addition to requesting a formal execution, she faced her end without a blindfold.


“Viv libète! A ba esclavaj” (“Long Live Freedom! Down with slavery”) Sanité shouted to the firing squad as she was about to be executed. Her bravery in the face of execution is applauded throughout Haiti’s histories. Sanité Bélair was only 21 years old at the time of her death.


Sanité is remembered for her courage and commitment to the struggle for emancipation, and her legacy is an inspiration to all those who continue to fight for justice and freedom.


In 2004, she was featured on the 10 gourde banknote of the Haitian gourde for the “Bicentennial of Haiti” Commemorative series. She was the only woman depicted in the series, and the second woman ever (after Catherine Flon) to be depicted on a Haitian banknote.


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