Thursday, September 27, 2007

Avengers of the New World

Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution
by Laurent Dubois chronicles the remarkable history of the first and only successful slave revolution in the Americas. Because the people, places, and events are not familiar to me, I had to slowly read and try to absorb all of the foreign information. I was also constantly turning back to try and figure out references that didn't make sense to me. However, my effort was well rewarded. I have a little understanding of the rich history of Haiti.

Dubois carefully sets the stage for the success of the Haitian Revolution and perhaps why it was never duplicated. First, was the importance of a few French plantation owners passing on property to their mulatto children which ensured that there were wealthy and educated free people of color. Men like Julien Raimond worked tirelessly to expand rights for free people of color, even though he didn't fight to extend the rights to all people of color.

The effect of the French Revolution, playing out during this time, which stressed "
Libertie, Equalitie, Fraternitie" also must be factored into account. There were men in positions of power who believed these ideals applied to not just the French but the slaves in far away Saint-Dominigue, current day Haiti. Their voices must have encouraged those embroiled in the fight.

During its struggles with Spain for control of this valuable island, France allowed slaves and free men of color to fight on its side. This provided the slave insurrectionists with valuable military and leadership experience. Many of these well trained men would then turn around and fight against the French people.

Another factor which can not be minimized is the climate of Haiti. From the time of Christopher Columbus to the present, the crushing heat and disease devastated scores of people of European origin while the people from Africa seemed to thrive in the climate.

The struggle for independence involved so many other important factors and timing that just could not be repeated. In addition to the deep resolve of the Haitian blacks and the arrogant miscalculation of Napoleon Bonaparte, the pragmatism of the insurrectionist leaders guided the revolution from its 1791 slave revolts to its successful conclusion in 1803. Toussaint Louverture, Henri Christophe, and the first president of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines achieved liberty for the black people of Haiti. By creating a society in which all people were granted freedom and citizenship, the Haitian Revolution forever changed the world.

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