Ebenezer D. Bassett, first African-American ambassador to Haiti

Connecticut native son and African-American, Ebenezer Bassett, will be accorded special distinction at the Freedom Trail Month celebration in September. His distinctions include his acceptance as the first black student to attend Central Connecticut State University and an appointment as the first African-American Ambassador to Haiti.


Bassett was a foremost advocate for the abolition of slavery during the Civil War. His friendship with another abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, was key in bringing Bassett's talents and experience to the attention of President Ulysses Grant. Little did Bassett know his biggest career challenge awaited him in Haiti, buffeted by internal conflicts, in the midst of a civil war.

His test as a diplomat came in the form of General Pierre Canal, responsible for the ouster of ex-President Sylvain Salnave. His successor, Michel Domingue, saw Canal as a danger to Domingue's reign. He pursued Canal, who knowing his life to be in danger, sought refuge at Bassett's residence, where he could be protected under diplomatic immunity.

The standoff between Bassett and Domingue lasted for months, with one thousand soldiers ringing Bassett's home. After several attempts to get Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, to send a warship to Haiti, Fish finally relented. Facing a threat from the U.S., Domingue brokered a deal: turn the ship back and he would allow Canal to safely leave Haiti. The U.S. agreed and the conflict ended.

Bassett's skill in negotiating a deal was a coup de grace, and ensured history would remember his feat of diffusing a tense international situation.

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