The Mulatto Solitude

The Mulatto Solitude symbolizes the Caribbean women and mothers who fought to protect the ideals of equality and freedom in the context of slavery.

Pedagogical Unit

The mulatto Solitude

Introduction

The only historical reference to the mulatto Solitude is found in a few lines of the book, Histoire de la Guadeloupe (History of Guadeloupe), written by Auguste Lacour (1805–1869).

Nevertheless, Solitude symbolizes in Caribbean collective imagination all the unknown women and mothers who courageously fought for equality and freedom from slavery.


Statue of Solitude at Abymes in Guadeloupe. Photographe by Sonia Dilon.

Unfortunately, very few of the women who took part in these struggles are remembered in the history books. Solitude and a few others, such as Sanite Belair and Marie-Jeanne Lamartinière in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), and Marthe-Rose, known as Toto, in Guadeloupe, are the exceptions.

The book by Auguste Lacour

Histoire de la Guadeloupe by Auguste Lacour contains the only nineteenth-century reference to the mulatto Solitude. This book was based on research into the administrative archives, chronicles of the time and witness accounts of the 1802 insurrection against the reinstatement of slavery.

Lacour tells us little about Solitude, recording that she was sentenced to death and tortured (possibly to death) a day after giving birth:

To be suppliciée means to be tortured, which could include flogging or being shackled, and could culminate in death.

‘Finally arrested in the middle of a band of insurgents, she was sentenced to death; but was granted a delay for her execution date. She was suppliciée on 29 November, after giving birth’ (p. 311).

The novel by André Schwarz-Bart

In 1972, the French writer André Schwarz-Bart published a novel based on the historical context of the era and the little that was known about Solitude.

The novel, La Mulâtresse Solitude, tells the story of Bayangumay, a stubborn, cheerful young African girl, who is captured and deported to Guadeloupe. She gives birth to a mulatto, Rosalie, after being raped on the ship that took her to the West Indies. The story then describes the life of Solitude (Rosalie’s new name) until she is executed the day after giving birth.



La Mulâtresse Solitude.
Novel by André Schwarz-Bart, Le Seuil, 1972.

The story told in Schwarz-Bart’s novel enjoyed a certain amount of success, but it is not considered historically accurate.

Historical figure in the events of May 1802

Since 1999 and following the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery (1848), the story of Joseph Ignace, Louis Delgrès, the mulatto Solitude and their fellow rebels (Palerme, Massoteau, Codou, Jacquet, etc.) has spread and been transmitted to new generations.

In 1999, the municipality of Abymes in Guadeloupe inaugurated a statue of the mulatto Solitude.



Statue of the Mulatto Solitude at Bagneux (France).
Photograph by photoatelier, 2009.

A story yet to be written: some hypotheses

According to André Schwarz-Bart’s novel La Mulâtresse Solitude (1972), Solitude was hanged. This is not confirmed by any historical source. Furthermore, the French term suppliciée does not necessarily imply the death penalty.

It was common for the death penalty to be reduced to other lesser forms of punishments, such as forced labour. It should also be noted that a woman named Solitude was mentioned in a register of newly freed slaves in Guadeloupe in 1860. She was 80 years old and was given the patronymic name ‘Toto’. The evidence suggests that this Solitude could have been the mulatto of 1802, since the age seems to match; however, her patronym is a little confusing, since it corresponds to that of another female figure from 1802. Toto was also the nickname of Marthe Rose, known as Toto, the companion of Delgrès. Marthe Rose, known as Toto, may even have been Solitude’s sister.



Extract of the register "des nouveaux libres et d'individualité". Screenshot from the web site www.anchoukaj.org