The Haitian Revolution in Video...Click here


















Related Links:

Haiti the first black republic in the World

Famous Creoles
Harold Doley






The Worlds First Black Republic






    Located in the Caribbean, between Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica, the island of Haiti is inhabited by two independent nations: the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

    When Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the northern part of what is now the Republic of Haiti in 1492, he referred to the people he met on the island as Indians, thinking that he had reached India in South Asia. These people, however, preferred to be called Tainos meaning "men of the good".



The First Island of Discovery by Columbus in the New World


They lived throughout the greater islands of Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico and had migrated from South America centuries before Columbus. The Tainos are said to have been gentle, calm and very hospitable.

Those in the island of Haiti were known as having been the most advanced of the Tainos, having developed a flourishing civilization way before Columbus's voyage to the Americas.






The Haitian revolt (1794-1804), was the largest and only successful slave revolt in the Atlantic world. It resulted in  the first black republic anywhere in the world, and the first independent nation in Latin America.

Modern-day Haiti comprises one-half of the island that in the 18th century was known as Hispaniola. It was divided at the time between the nations of France and Spain. The Spanish section was known as  Santo Domingo, the French section as Saint-Domingue.

Saint-Domingue was the richest colony in the world, with the most productive plantation system in the West Indies. Its plantations grew mainly sugar and indigo.  Its slave system was among the most brutal and oppressive in the world.

 As the plantations were immense and the slaves often first-generation Africans (due to the high mortality rate among the slaves), the slaves of Saint-Domingue had their own strong cultural traditions, which were still closely tied to African languages, religions and culture.



Saint-Domingue society was composed of four groups

The French
The black slaves
The free people of color
The maroons


As was common on the Caribbean islands, the blacks massively outnumbered the whites, and the plantations were huge. There were 20,000- to 40,000 whites — mixed planters and poorer whites, often craftsmen. Planters often owned plantations composed of hundreds or even thousands of slaves.

There were about 30,000 free people of color.  The free people of color were about half mulattoes (the mixed-race children of slave women and French masters, who had usually been freed by their fathers), and half freed slaves who had purchased their freedom, or were descended from those who had.





Haitian Frenchcreoles...

Click on video


The free people of color were a relatively wealthy but deeply resented group. They could themselves own slaves, and were often pro-slavery.  They tended to dress and act in a French manner and shun the cultural and religious traditions of the slaves.

There were at least 500,000 slaves in Saint-Domingue in 1791, laboring under one of the most brutal slave systems anywhere. They outnumbered the whites 10 to 1. While there was a significant class of domestic servants, who occupied a higher social class in slave society, the vast majority of the slaves were field hands.

Finally, there were an unknown number of escaped slaves, possibly as many as tens of thousands, living in colonies in the mountains. The inhabitants of these communities, called the maroons, had long plotted against the slave system, and furnished the leadership for the Haitian Revolution.

From the 1750s to the 1790s, Saint-Domingue experienced a steady growth in the maroon communities, as slaves continued to flee the oppressive plantations for the hills. These colonies eventually organized into networks of resistance to the slave system.  In the late 1750s, maroon leader Francois Makandal led a major slave uprising which showed the organization of the maroon communities. Captured, he was burned at the stake by French authorities in 1758



Vodoun (voodoo), the native religion of the Haitian slaves, was a powerful weapon for terrifying the white planters, as well as organizing resistance under the voodoo priestesses

.  It was a mixture of African traditions and Roman Catholic elements. The name (“voodoo” is a mispronunciation) came from a sacred dance to the snake deity that adherents worshiped.

Voodoo priestesses claimed the power of life and death and the ability to foretell the future, and wielded a great deal of knowledge about potions and roots — poisoning was a common weapon against planters and other opponents. Voodoo rituals were conducted at night, in secret, and voodoo priestesses commanded the complete obedience of their followers.

1791 marked the beginning of a general revolt by the slaves under the leadership of former slaves from the maroon communities, which eventually spread across the whole French section. The rebels were aided by the distraction of the French homeland during their revolution, as well as by divisions within the planter class. Many of the planters had admired the American Revolution and wanted similar political independence from their own parent state. They supported the French Revolution as a means of gaining greater political autonomy, although they had certainly not meant to extend the rhetoric of freedom to their own slaves.


Toussaint L'Ouverture, an escaped slave living among the maroons, united the revolters, using rhetoric derived from the French Revolution. He gained his surname from his military ability to break through the lines of his opponents in battle.

The Haitian Revolution was a bloody one, as the slaves massacred the whites wherever they could find them, and the whites responded to kind to captured slave rebels. It became the enduring nightmare of slaveholders everywhere, especially in the United States South.

In 1794, during the Terror period of the French Revolution, the French radical leader Robespierre outlawed slavery in all French possessions as part of his effort to rationalize the French state and extend the principles of the Enlightenment to all Frenchmen. The slave leaders in Saint-Domingue embraced the Revolution.  By 1800, Toussaint was effectively in charge of Saint-Domingue's government.



Page 2




Questions, Comments, Dead Links? Emai
**All articles taken from selected reading materials are the sole property of the authors listed. In no way are these articles credited to this site. The material presented is only a brief presentation of writings from the publisher & producer of each article.
Copyright French Creoles of America®, All Rights Reserved