Haitian Revolution

Haiti: The Land of Black Revolution


The Haitian Revolution depicts a series of conflicts between the colonizers—France, Spain, and England and the colonized— the Haitian former slaves. In one hand, the colonizers wanted to maintain slavery, on the other hand, the Slaves aspired to freedom. During 312 years of History, the Haitian Revolution has involved five key protagonists from 1492 to 1804. There were the Tainos—who occupied the land prior to the 1492 Spanish invasion by Christopher Columbus, The Spanish—who reduced the Taino into slavery to mine gold after Christopher Columbus landed 1492; The British—who battled the Spanish to take over the land, The French—who battled both the Spanish and The British to settle their domination on the land by 1665—whose island they called Saint-Domingue, and The Africans—bought by the French colonists from different African Tribes to work as slaves in Saint-Domingue. Due to the Large-scale sugar, tobacco, and coffee production, the French plantations needed a larger labor-intensive force. As a result, the French Colonist imported more than 2,000 slaves a year to Saint-Domingue.[1]. By 1789, the estimated population of Saint-Domingue amount 556,000 people. Of that population, 90% or 500,000 were Black African slaves, 5.7% or 32,000 were White European colonists, and 4.3% or 24,000 were mulattoes or affranchis.[2]


The Suffering of the Slaves Made the Wealth of the Colonists.


The Slaves had endured long and grueling workdays. They often died from malnutrition, starvation, injuries, and infections. The Slaves had no rights except their duties. And their duties were nothing but satisfy all their masters’ demands and work hard enough until they die of fatigue. In fact, they were considered like objects according to “Le Code Noir”—the Slaves’ code of conduct. They were beaten to death, marked with hot iron, and burned alive for any sort of disobedience or revolt. Their women were raped, and their children were forced into slavery. It was impossible for the Slaves to even think that they were human beings. With the slaves suffering, Saint-Domingue had become the France’s most lucrative colony by the end of the 18th century and hold a world record production of sugar and coffee.


The Hour of Revolution Began with the Slaves Determination


At that moment, the Slaves used various passive and moderate forms to protest the slavery system and their horrific living conditions. Some started to suicide and poison the masters, which was their first sign of resistance. Others— like the Maroons started to flee the plantations to live on the mountain’s interior, organized themselves in small groups, and came at night to attack the masters[guerilla] and burned the sugar, the tobacco, and the coffee plantations.


The active Haitian Revolution began in 1791 with the insurrection of the former slaves, which was crowned with the country independence proclamation on January 1, 1804. These 13 years of history depict a succession of armed conflicts and struggles between France and the slaves.


In April 1791: General insurrection breaks out amongst the 10,000 to 15,000 slaves in the Cul-de-Sac plain.


In July 1791: More than 2,000 slaves attacked the plantations in the South, kill any slave who refuses to join their forces, and torches 14 of the colony’s finest plantations.


In September 1791, The North Regions—Le Cap is burned to the ground by the rebelling slaves.


As cited in The Brown University Library,


“During those first weeks of revolution, the slaves destroyed the whites and their property with much the same ruthlessness and cruelty that they had suffered for so many years at the hands of their masters. The scenes of horror and bloodshed on the plantations, as whites hopelessly tried to defend themselves or, at best, to flee from the unleashed terror and rage of their former slaves, were only too reminiscent of

the brutality that the slaves themselves had endured under the plantations regime. Yet as atrocious as they were, these acts of vengeance were surprisingly moderate, in the opinion of one of the best-known historians of that revolution, compared with the cold-blooded, grotesque savagery and sadistically calculated torture committed by their oppressors throughout the past. These were impassioned acts of revenge, of retribution, and were relatively short-lived.” (Carolyn E. Fick, The Making of Haiti, p. 108) [3].


On the night of August 14, 1791, more than 200 slaves from nearby plantations organized a religious ritual and a strategic meeting to further strengthen the revolt against the Whites. This secret ceremony called Bois-Caiman took place in the woods nearby Le Cap and presided over by Dutty Boukman— a prominent enslaved African leader and Vodoo priest. During the ritual, a pig is killed, and the slaves drank the blood. They promised to kill all the enslavers and burned the plantations to ultimately free themselves.


In October 1791: Port-au-Prince is burned to the ground during fighting between whites and mulattoes.


In May 1792: Spain declared war against England, then France. In Saint-Domingue, the European powers battle for control of the lucrative colony.


In February 1793: Rebel leaders, including Toussaint Louverture, joined Spanish forces to fight against the French.


In February 1794: The Convention officially abolished in France and French territories, including Saint-Domingue. A new work code required owners to give the slaves a third of plantation revenue and additional free days.


In June 1796: Final withdrawal of Spanish forces from Hispaniola per the peace treaty signed by France and Spain in July 1795.


From late 1796 to 1801, Toussaint Louverture who was a former slave and a commander in the French and Spanish army took over the land and took the slave revolution to a new level. In July 1801, Toussaint proclaimed a new constitution in Saint-Domingue and abolished slavery forever.


From late 1801 to 1782, France sent General Leclerc to Saint-Domingue to establish slavery. Bonaparte is undeterred, and from February 1802 to November 1803 sends 80,000 troops and 408 ships to reinforce Leclerc’s troops, some of whom have been in Saint-Domingue since 1792.


From February 1802 to November 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte sent 80,000 troops and 408 ships to reinforce Leclerc’s troops. In the meantime, Toussaint Louverture sent instructions to  

his leaders throughout the colony, warning that the French intend to restore slavery.


In March 1802, Jean Jacques Dessalines defeated the French troops in the Battle of Crête-à-Pierrot when European troops attack a fort defended by Dessalines.


In April 1802, Toussaint Louverture was ambushed and captured by the Napoleon troops. On his way to imprison in France, Toussaint prophetised the freedom of Saint-Domingue stating, “In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of black liberty in St. Domingue. It will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep” [4]


In October 1802, Dessalines, Capois, and Christophe continued the fight for liberty and launched a general call to arms leading to the final resistance to the French.[5]


In January 1803, the General Rochambeau requested explicit permission from France to proclaim the restauration of slavery in the colony. In April 1803, the French troops launched a final effort to subdue the rebel forces.


In May 1803, Dessalines created the Haitian flag in Archaie by ripping the white fabric from the French tricolor. In October 1803, the revolutionary army took control of the South.


The Battle of Vertieres: The turning point of the Haitian Revolution.


November 18, 1803 was the date that everything changed for the Slaves. It was the period that sealed the slaves' freedom. At Vertieresthe northern region of the country took place the battle that will set the land free forever. Under the command of Dessalines and Christophe, The Slaves defeated the great French Army led by General Rochambeau. With determination and bravura, The Slaves inflicted a humiliation to the French troops. General Rochambeau then surrendered to Dessalines who agreed to a cease-fire provided that the French forces evacuated Saint-Domingue within 10 days. Two months later, i.e. January 1st, 1804, a new republic was formed, a new nation of free people emerged. It was Haiti—the Land of Black Revolution that ended 312 years of slavery and struggles.






























[1]. The History of Haiti: 1 492 – 1805. The Brown Universiti Library. https://library.brown.edu/haitihistory/6.html

[2]. Encyclopaedia Britannica. (n.d).Haitian Revolution. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Haitian-Revolution

[3]. Fick, C. E. (1990). The making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue revolution from below. United States: University of Tennessee Press.


[4]. Granqvist, Manne (2006). "Haiti: the deep roots of liberty". New African. April 2006 (450): 50. ISSN 0142-9345.


[5]. Accilien, Cécile (March 2015). Revolutionary Freedoms: A History of Survival, Strength and Imagination in Haiti



[i]. Weekes, P. (2019, February 27). The Haitian Revolution Makes the Case for Reparations Clear. Retrieved September 01, 2020, from https://www.themarysue.com/the-haitian-revolution-makes-the-case-for-reparations-clear/