The Haitian Revolution
Our 500 Year Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Anniversary feature continues with the Haitian Revolution. Arguably, the most significant Revolution in Human History in which the Slave class rebelled to create an independent State…In this case, the first independent Black State outside the African continent.
In 1791, Africans enslaved in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue exploded in a revolt unprecedented in human history. Saint-Domingue, the western third of the island of Hispaniola, was at that time the ultimate sugar island, the imperial engine of French economic growth…By the end of the year thousands of whites and blacks were dead.
Minor slave rebellions were one thing. Total African victory was another thing entirely—it was so incomprehensible.
Yet the revolution in Saint-Domingue was making a modern world. In an age of revolutions, Haiti’s revolution was the most revolutionary and by 1800, Saint-Domingue, though nominally still part of the French Republic, was essentially an independent country.
In his letters to Paris, revolutionary leader, Toussaint Louverture styled himself the “First of the Blacks.” He was communicating with a man rated the First in France—Napoleon Bonaparte, first Consul of the Republic.
But after Napoleon concluded the Peace of Amiens with Britain in 1800, He set his sights on a new goal: restoring the imperial crown’s finest jewel, the lost Saint-Domingue. In 1801, he sent the largest invasion fleet that ever crossed the Atlantic, some 50,000 men, to the island…Their mission was to decapitate the ex-slave leadership of Saint-Domingue.
Although the French successfully captured Toussaint by deception and packed him off to France to be imprisoned in a fortress in the Jura Mountains, resistance, did not cease. So even as Toussaint Louverture shivered in his cell across the ocean, the army he left behind became the first to deal a decisive defeat to Napoleon’s ambitions.
So it was that on 1 January 1804 a gathering of African leaders who had survived the Middle Passage, slavery, revolution, and war proclaimed the independence of a new country, which they called Haiti.
Not only did Haitian independence finish off Napoleon’s schemes for the Western Hemisphere, but it also sounded the knell for the first form of New World slavery.
On the sugar islands, productivity had depended on the continual resupply of captive workers ripped from the womb of Africa. Many Europeans who had not initially been convinced of the African slave trade’s immorality were now convinced that it had brought evil and destruction.
In 1807, the British Parliament passed a law ending the international slave trade to its empire. In the near future, Britain would push Spain, France, and Portugal toward abolishing their own Atlantic slave trades.
Ironically, the Haitian Revolution made it possible for the United States to expand its own Slave Trade along the Mississippi Valley…The History of Slavery in America would be another momentous chapter in world History, but in Haiti, that chapter had been closed.
For more on the Haitian revolution and celebrated leader, Toussaint Louverture check out the links below and our featured Home Page documentary.
Stay woke fellow Africans and brethren.
Links & Credits