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The Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution started as a massive slave uprising on August, 1791. A massive slave uprising erupted in the French colony Saint-Domingue which is now called Haiti. The rebellion was fueled by a Vodou service that was organized by Boukman, a Voudou hougan or High Priest. Most historians view this revolt as the most celebrated event that began the 13-year revolution that culminated in the independence of Haiti in the year 1804. Saint-Domingue became France’s wealthiest producing colony in the eighteenth century.

A plantation system that was ran by slaves, imported from Africa brought the wealth of men who were mainly French planters from Africa and France. The third and fourth positions of the stratified class system were filled by a few middle class of white men, but the majority of men were black. The colony was in a melee with several revolutionary movements, at the time of the uprising from the slaves. The planters were moving toward independence from France and the free colored people wanted a full citizenship, while the slaves wanted their freedom.

All were inspired by the French Revolution of 1789 that wanted equality and freedom. Toussaint L’ Ouverture was one of the most remembered leaders of the Haitian Revolution who was a former slave. “He organized armies of former slaves that defeated the Spanish and British forces,” explains (Heinl, 1996) He conquered Santo Domingo by 1801, which is currently called Dominican Republic and he eradicated slavery and gave himself the title of governor-general for life over the entire island which he fought for and won.

Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801, sent out General Leclerc and thousands of troops to arrest Toussaint and to reinstate slavery and to restore the French rule was described by Carolyn Fick, (1990, Fick) Toussaint was sent to France after being captured, after being deceived. He died in prison in 1803. One of Toussaint’s generals, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, led the last battle and defeated Napoleon’s forces.

Dessalines declared the nation as independent on January 1, 1804, when it became known as Haiti, the country that was the first black republic in the world and the first independent nation in Latin America. The year 2004 will commemorate the bicentennial celebration of the Haitian Revolution where many will take part in the event, remembering the brave battle in the Haitian Revolution.

Most accounts of the Haitian Revolution focus on the role of the North and famous leaders such as Toussaint L’ Ouverture, along with Dessalines and Henry Christophe. They are the main people who are remembered for their bravery in Haiti, today. Many of the freed slaves of Saint-Domingue settled in New Orleans, profoundly influencing the history of that city.

1990, Fick, Carolyn E. , The Making of Haiti, The Saint Domingue Revolution, p. 23 1996, Heinl, Robert Debs, Gordon Heinl, Written in Blood, The Story of the Haitian People

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