Price-Mars, Jean (1876–1969)

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Price-Mars, Jean (1876–1969)

Jean Price-Mars (b. 15 October 1876; d. 1 March 1969), Haitian teacher, diplomat, writer, and ethnographer. Price-Mars served as secretary of the Haitian legation in Washington (1909) and as chargé d'affaires in Paris (1915–1917). In 1922 he completed medical studies that he had given up for lack of a scholarship. After withdrawing as a candidate for the presidency of Haiti in favor of Stenio Vincent in 1930, Price-Mars led Senate opposition to the new president and was forced out of politics. In 1941, he was again elected to the Senate. He was secretary of state for external relations in 1946 and, later, ambassador to the Dominican Republic. In his eighties, he continued service as Haitian ambassador at the United Nations and ambassador to France.

Through his lectures and writing, Price-Mars brought popular culture, the Creole language, and the religion of Vodun into respectable focus. He laid the groundwork for the formation of the Indigenist movement and the important literary journals, La revue indigène and Les griots. Among his important doctrines was his opposition to the concept of "race" applied to human beings. He returned to the very sources of Haitian folklore in demonstrating parallels and resemblances with other early cultures (European and African). Berrou and Pompilus wrote that Ainsi parla l'oncle (1928) was "the condemnation of the bovarysm of the Haitian middle class." Depestre criticized Price-Mars for not early repudiating François Duvalier, but Hoffman takes a more balanced view, that Price-Mars maintained a distance from Duvalier and the "Griots."

See alsoHaiti; Négritude; Vodun, Voodoo, Vaudun.


Other works include La vocation de l'élite (1919); Ainsi parla l'oncle (1928), translated with critical introduction by Magdaline W. Shannon as So Spoke the Uncle (1983); Une étape de l'évolution haïtienne (1929); Formation ethnique, folklore et culture du peuple haïtien (1939); La République d'Haïti et la République dominicaine (1953); De Saint-Domingue à Haïti (1959).

See also F. Raphaël Berrou and Pradel Pompilus, Histoire de la littérature haïtienne illustrée par les textes, vol. 3 (1977), pp. 716-747; René Depestre, "La négritude de Jean Price-Mars," in his Bonjour et adieu à la négritude (1980), pp. 43-57; Léon-François Hoffman, "Price-Mars et les Griots," in his Haïti: couleurs, croyances, créole (1990), pp. 183-197.

Additional Bibliography

Shannon, Magdaline W. Jean Price-Mars, the Haitian Elite and the American Occupation, 1915–1935. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

                                    Carrol F. Coates