Haitian Revolution 1791-1804
On a motorcycle with four occupants – Wilcy, Smith, me, Thomas, and Michelet (picture 1) – I was on an adventurous sort of pilgrimage to the sites of the Haitian Revolution near Cap-Haitien from March 11-21, 2016. We visited Bois Caiman (picture 2), where everything began with a big Voodoo-ceremony on August 14, 1791; Bréda (picture 3) where revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture grew up, and the battlefield of Vertières (picture 4) where the revolution was ultimately victorious when Dessalines’ army of ex-slaves defeated Napoleon’s troops on November 18, 1803.
Also, King Henry-Christophe’s palace ruins of Sans Souci in Milot (picture 5), and the nearby massive Citadelle La Ferriere (picture 6).
Respite from the bumpy motorcycle ride offered Ile a Rats (picture 7), a beautiful mini-island that Columbus “discovered” for Europe on his first voyage to Hispaniola. The last picture shows Michelet, me, and Wilcy standing on a sandbank in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
The Haitian Revolution represents the first successful struggle for independence on the part of a New World colony without assistance from a major European colonial power. To the contrary, it was victorious against the sustained resistance of all colonial superpowers of the day, France, Britain, and Spain. Not only did the Haitian Revolution lead to independence on Jan. 1st, 1804, but it led to the abolition of slavery in Haiti and far beyond. Haiti supported Simón Bolívar’s struggle for Latin American independence under the condition that he abolish slavery there. Further, the Haitian revolution inspired a fledgling abolitionist movement in Europe and in the United States to grow into an ultimately successful mass movement. But this is not all, with slavery the Haitian Revolution defeated the economic basis of pseudo-scientific race theory and Haitian intellectuals like Anténor Firmin openly challenged it at a time when biological racism was almost unanimously accepted in the halls of academia. Biological racism developed its most extreme form in the gas-chambers of the German Holocaust. It was the global movement against slavery and for racial equality originally begun by the Haitian Revolution that ultimately defeated that ideology. As a world community we owe a lot to the Haitian Revolution. But it is also one of the few examples where the vanquished have written history, and they have largely written Haiti out of the historical account. It’s time that Haiti regain its rightful place in world history. The dates August 14, 1791 (beginning of the slave uprising), November 18, 1803 (Battle of Vertières), January 1, 1804 (Independence), and the Names Dutty Boukman, Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Pétion, and Henri Christophe should be familiar to every school child in the world.
It is also time that France not only pay back the so called ‘Independence Debt’ it extracted from Haiti but that it consider reparations for slavery itself.