Raymond Joseph, the Haitian Ambassador to the United States, will visit St. Augustine to increase awareness of General Jorge Biassou, a Spanish officer who lived in the city from 1796 until his death in 1801.
Only the Governor ranked higher than Biassou, a black man, in the Spanish colony of La Florida during the general’s stay in the nation’s oldest city.
The story of Biassou is well-known in Haiti, but his life, death and burial in St. Augustine are known only to a few historians worldwide. Because of its potential appeal to African-Americans, Haitians and Spaniards, Biassou’s legacy as a black general who influenced Florida’s history could be a stimulus to the local tourism industry.
A leader of the slave revolt against the French in Haiti, Biassou became a Spanish general. While living in St. Augustine, he commanded the black militia stationed at Fort Matanzas. For five years, he lived at 42 St. George Street which is now the reconstructed Salcedo House that houses Whetstone’s Chocolates. Biassou died in St. Augustine and his funeral was held at the Catholic Cathedral. His burial site in the Tolomato Cemetery on Cordova Street is unmarked.
At 6 p.m. on Friday evening, Ambassador Joseph will attend a reception at Fort Mose State Park.
On Saturday, the ambassador will tour the site of the Biassou house, the Tolomato Cemetery and other historic sites in St. Augustine.
Photo credit: The Washington Diplomat