When we think of political/national revolutions throughout history, several come to mind right away. The American revolution (of course), the French Revolution, and (for some) the Bolshevik Revolution and the political ramifications of that. Those are just three of many important and well-known ones. A revolution that doesn’t receive the same kind of recognition or attention is the Haitian revolution. Why is it that perhaps the most successful slave rebellion in the history of the western world is essentially swept under the rug? Even as a history major, I have only heard about it in passing, and I certainly heard next to nothing about it in High School. Is there a reason for this?
Ultimately, I think the reason we “neglect” the Haitian revolution is because of the difference in historical perspective. The American revolution is central to our ideas of what it means to be American. It is a part of our patriotic culture, and it will undoubtedly lead to a large number of American history historians moving forward. The French Revolution is “sexy”, for lack of a better term. It reads like a story. You have your central characters of personality and importance like Robespierre and Napolean, a setting to die for in Paris, and there is enough cultural significance in terms of novels (a tale of two cities, for instance) and other ways to make the revolution significant in more than just historical terms. The Bolshevik Revolution is a precedent-setting political revolution with immense consequences for the world moving forward. What I mean by that is it was a revolution that gave rise to the first communist superpower. Of course, it will get significant attention.
The Haitian revolution wasn’t purely American, it wasn’t a cultural “event” to the same degree as the one in France, and it wasn’t in a major country. The Haitian Revolution was, however, inspired by the enlightenment, had ramifications in America in terms of the ongoing slavery taking place at the time, and it gave a view into the manner in which a newly formed republic, created and led by former slaves, would operate. Maybe most importantly, the Haitian revolution challenged ideas of racial inferiority of the ability of colored people to achieve and maintain freedom. Also important to consider are the ways the Haitian Revolution connects to the French revolution, as the speaker Jeremy Popkin explained. The latter influenced the former, and the former gave rise to a government that challenged the latter. The Haitian revolution proves the interconnectivity of history. Revolutions influence each other, just as the slave rebellion in Haiti influenced slave rebellions in the United States. For this reason, perhaps it would be useful to offer more attention to the Haitian revolution because of what it meant worldwide, even though it isn’t necessarily “mainstream”.