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Marie-Joseph Angélique

Marie-Joseph Angélique (died July 21, 1734) was the name given by the French authorities to a black African slave in New France (later Quebec, Canada). She set fire to her owner's home, burning much of what is now referred to as old Montreal. Owned by François Poulin, Angélique was expected to fill her role as a slave by breeding with other slaves and servicing her master. She, however, was adamantly opposed to this, and devoted to her own lover, a white servant named Claude Thibault. When Poulin threatened to sell her, the terrified girl set fire to his home and tried to escape. She was captured shortly after, but not before the fire she started devastated much of old Montreal (no one was killed by the fire).

Tried and tortured, Angelique confessed to the crime and was sentenced to death. She was hanged on June 21, 1734, in a public ceremony that involved her disgrace and the amputation of the hand with which she set the fire. Once dead, her body was burned and her ashes, scattered. Her death stands today as a harsh condemnation of the excesses of slavery, even when relatively benign, as the French institution has claimed to be.

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