Félix Morisseau-Leroy (13 March 1912 – 5 September 1998), was a
Haitian writer who wrote in
Haitian Creole for poetry and plays, the
first significant writer to do so. By 1961 he succeeded in having
Creole recognized as an official language of Haiti, after expanding
its teaching in schools and use in creative literature. Morisseau also
published works on French,
Haitian Creole and Haitian French
literature. He worked internationally, encouraging the development of
national literature in post-colonial
Ghana and Senegal. In 1981 he
settled in Miami, Florida, where he was influential in uniting the
Haitian community around Creole and encouraged its study in academia.
1 Early life and education
2 Marriage and family
5 Honors and legacy
6 Selected works
9 External links
Early life and education
Grand Gosier in 1912 to an educated, well-to-do mulatto
family, Morisseau studied in nearby Jacmel, where he was educated in
French and English. There he met his future wife Renée, who admired
his skills as a horseman.
Marriage and family
Morisseau-Leroy married Renée in Jacmel, and always said she inspired
his poetry. They had two sons and a daughter.
After returning from the US to Haiti, he taught in the capital
Port-au-Prince. He began to pay more attention to the Creole of the
streets and to think of its power as a written language to unite the
country. At that time, French was used by the educated classes, and
Creole was the language of the common people. Morisseau-Leroy
taught literature and theater, and also worked as a writer and
journalist. He was appointed to political offices in government,
including director in the Haitian
Ministry of Public Instruction
Ministry of Public Instruction and
General Director of National Education.
Known informally as "Moriso", he was a father of the Creole
Renaissance. He promoted the movement to stimulate use of Haitian
Creole (or Kreyòl) language and establish its legitimacy for creative
use in literature and culture. As this was the only language of the
majority of the people, who were mostly rural, Morisseau believed
strongly in using Creole as a means of uniting the country. Morisseau
translated the classical Greek tragedy Antigone into Creole as Wa
Kreyon, at the same time adapting the characters and context for
Haitian culture, for instance, featuring a Vodoun priest.
The rise of Papa Doc Duvalier's autocratic regime shut down many of
the most promising writers, as he was threatened by free expression.
According to one story, Duvalier sent armed forces to escort Morisseau
to the airport and force him into exile because he was offended by his
work. Only the fact that they were former classmates and friends
probably saved Morisseau's life.
Morisseau-Leroy was invited to France to produce Wa Kreyon in
Paris. While there he met major figures in the
Aimé Césaire and Leopold Senghor. They encouraged his work
and also influenced his future teaching in nations of
Africa and in
the United States.
He next moved to Ghana, where he taught and headed the national
theatre as colonialism was ending. He taught in
Ghana for seven years,
then moved to Senegal, where he taught until 1979. Other Haitian
writers exiled by Duvalier to
Senegal included Jean Brierre, Gérard
Chenet and Roger Dorsinville.
Morisseau-Leroy last moved to Miami, Florida, in 1981, where there was
a large Haitian community. He settled with his family there for the
rest of his life. In teaching
Haitian Creole and literature, he helped
unite immigrants and their descendants around their heritage. He wrote
a weekly column carried in the periodical Haïti en Marche. In later
years, his mop of a white-haired
Afro became a trademark, as was his
sense of humor.
In 1991, his work was included in a collection of English translations
(by Jeffrey Knapp, Marie Marcelle Buteau Racine, Marie Helene Laraque,
and Suze Baron), Haitiad and Oddities, was published in Miami. It
contains "Natif Natal," originally written in French, and 12 poems,
including "Boat People," "Thank You Dessalines," and "Water,"
originally written in Haitian Creole. In 1995 he published his last
work, an epic novel of
Haiti of which he was proud, entitled Les Djons
Haiti Tom (People of
Haiti with Courage).
He died in Miami in 1998.
Dyakout I (Diacoute) (1953) collection of poetry, and other works in
Creole have been published in translation in six languages.
In addition, Morisseau published critical work on Creole, Haitian
French, and French national literature.
Through his teaching and leadership, Morisseau helped create national
literature and theater of
Ghana and Senegal.
His teaching in
Miami, Florida encouraged immigrants, descendants and
others to study and write in Haitian Creole, as well as leading to the
academic study of Creole in the US.
Honors and legacy
Authors have dedicated plays and volumes of poetry to Morisseau-Leroy.
A street in Miami, Florida's Little
Haiti neighborhood was named after
In 1991 Morisseau-Leroy was invited by
Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti
to be a guest speaker at his inauguration. There Aristide affirmed
Creole as an official language.
The Canadian journal Étincelles named Morisseau as
Writer of the
The March 13, 1992 issue of Finesse magazine (published in New York)
was a collective tribute to Morisseau's 80th birthday.
In 1994 the French journal Sapriphage devoted a special edition to his
work called Haiti's Presence.
Plénitudes (1940), poetry
Natif-natal, conte en vers (1948), short story in verse
Dyakout (Diacoute) (1951), poetry
Wa Kreyon (Antigone) in Kreyòl (1953), play adapted for Haiti
Haitiad and Oddities (1991), poetry
Les Djons d'
Haiti Tom (People of
Haiti with Courage) (1995)
^ a b c d e f g h Nick Caistor, "Obituary: Felix Morisseau-Leroy", The
Independent, London, 11 Sep 1998, accessed 14 Aug 2008
^ Nick Caistor, "Obituary: Félix Morisseau-Leroy", The Independent,
London, 11 Sep 1998, accessed 14 Aug 2008
^ "Biography of Felix Morisseau-Leroy", in French, with bibliography,
Lehman Library, City University of New York, accessed 14 Aug 2008
^ a b "Happy Birthday, Felix Morrisseau-Leroy", 13 Mar 2006, Geoffrey
Philp blog spot, accessed 14 Aug 2008
^ a b "Biography of Felix Morisseau-Leroy", in French, with
bibliography], Lehman Library, City University of New York, accessed
14 Aug 2008
^ a b c Paul Laraque, "In Memoriam: Felix Morisseau-Leroy (1912-1998)"
Archived 2008-10-11 at the Wayback Machine., Left Curve, No.23,
accessed 14 Aug 2008
Schutt-Ainé, Patricia (1994). Haiti: A Basic Reference Book. Miami,
Florida: Librairie Au Service de la Culture. p. 104.
"Portrait of the Poet", Audio Documentary including readings by the
"Félix Morisseau-Leroy", Famous Haitians
"Two for Two: Theatre Mapou and Antigone", Echo d'Haiti
Program 5 contains five video links of Morisseau speaking, his bio,
his poetry, Library, University of Miami
"Mèsi Papa Desalin", honoring Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Louverture
"Eminans: a story for singing" English translation, Green Integer,
ISNI: 0000 0000 2738 8376
BNF: cb11916897x (da