Felix Morisseau-Leroy

Haitian poet and writer

Félix Morisseau-Leroy (1912–1998) was a Haitian poet and writer known for using the Creole language in his works.

Félix Morisseau-Leroy was born in Grand Gosier, Haiti, along the Caribbean Sea. He grew up speaking French and English. After graduating with a master’s from Columbia University in New York, he taught in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. While in Haiti, he became interested in the Creole language, which was commonly spoken and featured in comedies and vaudeville performances for the masses, but less frequently written down. Haitian creole, also known as Kreyòl, emerged from the forced verbal communications that took place on plantations between French enslavers and enslaved West Africans in the former French colony of Saint-Domingue (present day Haiti). Although Creole was the dominant language among the masses, French was the language of the wealthy elite. To protect their status, the elite made French the national language in Haiti.

In resistance to this history, Morisseau-Leroy began writing poems and short sketches in Creole. In 1953, he wrote a collection of poems, Dyakout. That same year he translated and adapted the Greek classic, Antigone into Creole and situated the play into a Haitian cultural and religious context with his Antigòn an Kreyòl. Morisseau-Leroy sought to legitimize Creole, the native language of millions of Haitians. He felt it allowed for a pure expression of human emotion and intellect and he worked for Creole instruction in schools.

Tan paperback with red type on front cover. At center of front cover is a red religious symbol.

Haitiad & Oddities, 1991

Written by Félix Morisseau-Leroy

2016.2

© Félix Morisseau-Leroy

Due to the rise of the totalitarian regime of Haitian leader François Duvalier and the subsequent state-sanctioned violence against political dissent, Morisseau-Leroy went into exile for his own safety. He remained in France after a production of Antigone en Creole in Paris.

He taught in France and later lived in Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal, where he was pivotal to the development of postcolonial national literature initiatives.

In 1981, he moved to Miami, Florida, where he helped unite the already established Haitian community around the Creole language. The 1987 Haitian Constitution made Creole an official Haitian language. Outside of a few short trips back to Haiti, he remained in Florida and continued writing in Creole until his death.

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