By Nkashama Sankofa
African People’s Socialist Party
The Haiti Revolution is known as the most successful rebellion of African people.
It led to the creation of the first African state free from slavery and is an inspiration for African resistance throughout the world.
Christopher Columbus set foot on the island where Haiti is now located in 1492, and began a murderous rampage against the Indigenous people there, basically wiping them out.
Haiti, then known as St. Domingue was called the “Pearl of the Antilles” by French settlers because of the wealth it generated for France, who eventually colonized the western third of Hispaniola after taking control over it from the Spanish.
Enslaved Africans were forced––under horrid condition––to grow sugarcane, cotton and tobacco on its fertile soil.
By the year 1700, 50,000 Africans were brought to the island per year. They lived an average of seven years under the brutal and inhumane conditions.
These conditions were a breeding ground for rebellions as Africans would not stand for the tortures they were made to endure by the French.
A Vodou priest named Mackandal led a network of followers who carried out raids and secret attacks from 1751 until he was captured and murdered by the French in 1758.
They, however, were able to poison slave owners and their families for years before his capture.
His band of followers eventually became Maroons––a community of African runaways––who lived in the dense forests and mountains. The Maroons continued to carry out raids on the French even after Mackandal’s death.
Revolution on the Rise!
The first rebellion of the Haitian Revolution started on August 21, 1791 as Africans took up the demands of the French Revolution of 1789.
They had driven out the French under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture and controlled two thirds of the island by 1793 yet they were still sought after by European countries that wanted to continue to colonize the people.
The heroic Toussaint L’Ouverture successfully defeated an attack by the British by 1798. They arrived to conquer the island five years earlier.
Africans seized control of the whole island of Hispaniola in 1801 which included the Spanish colony of San Domingo (Dominican Republic) and freed all enslaved Africans there.
Toussaint L’Ouverture declared himself Governor-General of the island.
Napoleon, the French ruler who came into power after the French revolution, decided that year to reclaim the island and enslave the African people once again. He was defeated despite sending over 40,000 troops to take the island back.
The French at this point, pretended to want to negotiate with Toussaint L’Ouverture on a ship docked off the coast of Port-au-Prince.
He went against the advice of his general Jean Jacque Dessalines. The French did just as expected and set sail for France after Toussaint L’Ouverture came aboard to negotiate.
Toussaint was taken to Paris where he died in prison of pneumonia.
The French felt confident in launching another attack with Toussaint L’Ouverture finally dead.
Long live Haiti!
The spirit of Mackandal was invoked in a ceremony in 1803 just before a turning point in the Revolution.
That turning point came in the Battle of Vertieres November 18, 1803.
General Jean Jacque Dessalines, who took command of the Haitian army after Toussaint’s death, was a military genius.
He defeated Napoleon’s forces once and for all during this fierce battle.
Haiti was declared independent on January 1, 1804 and Jean Jacque Dessalines became its first Head of State. He was, however, assassinated two years later causing a power struggle among his successors.
Jean Pierre Boyer united Haiti in 1820 and led for two decades.
Haiti was declared a safe place for all African people seeking freedom from their colonizers. Over 6,000 Africans actually made it to Haiti from the U.S. between 1824 and 1826 where they found freedom.
A symbol of white imperial defeat by oppressed Africans, Haiti was forced by a coalition made up of France, Britain and the U.S. to pay 90 million dollars in gold francs as reparations to France from 1825 to 1947. By the imperialists’ logic, Haiti owed France for the stolen property. The “property” which they were referring to is Africans who freed themselves from slavery.
Today, Haiti has maintained a strong fire of resistance, especially during this period where imperialism is in crisis.
Often referred to as “little Africa,” Haiti and the Africans there have held on to much of the African culture.
Despite the military occupations by the U.S., economic attacks from imperialist European countries and their representatives, like Hillary Clinton, Haiti and its people remain proud of their rich history of resistance.
Africans have the right to resist our colonial oppression!
Forward the International African Revolution!
One Africa One Nation!
This article is a part of our series on Black August for our Black Power 96.3 FM fundraiser.
Characterized by African resistance, August is a month that should not go unrecognized by African people.
The Haiti Revolution is particularly historic because it consisted of enslaved Africans seizing power and freeing themselves from the chains of bondage.
This seizing of power is fully in line with our struggle for African liberation. Black Power 96.3 FM represents the black community taking control of the airwaves.
To donate, visit blackpower96.org.