America’s revolution for freedom from the British crown in 1776 was a fight for liberty from foreign tyrants, while the French Revolution in 1789 was a fight for liberty within the country. But what about the Haitian Revolution? While countless publications of America’s fight for independence as well as France’s domestic revolution exist, little information on the relatively unknown Haitian revolution circulates amongst historians. In order to address this discrepancy between revolutions, Popkin boldly stated that the Haitian Revolution was in fact silenced by historians themselves and deemed to be “not comparable to the great events in the US [or in France].” While Popkin gave many reasons for why historians might not favor the Haitian Revolution, he emphasized that Haiti was not fighting for the same “liberty” that the United States or France were fighting for; instead, Haiti favored a monarchy-like government structure, something America and France dreaded. Hypocritically, the speaker noted that while the “not-so-relevant” Haitian revolution did free its slaves following its victory over France, the United States as well as France failed to liberate their enslaved people. This point gives rise to another argument Popkin made: Historians, especially those in the United States, have tried to silence the Haitian revolution because the liberty that it achieved was actually much greater than that of the United States’ fight for independence. Although the US did achieve liberty from Britain, it did not liberate its own people, and would not do so for nearly 90 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. In terms of true freedom achieved, the Haitian revolution belittles the United States’ revolution. While nearly one hundred percent of Haiti’s population was freed, an entire race of people within the United States were bound to the land, forced to work under the white man. With the true identity of these revolutions revealed, perhaps the US government itself has attempted to censor and suppress the amount of attention the Haitian revolution receives lest people begin to realize how liberating the fight for independence against Britain actually was.
The portrayal of these revolutions also vastly differs within historic documentation. While the revolutions in France and America are often shown to be relatively strategic with the unfortunate cost of violence as a by-product, historians documenting the Haitian revolution paint a portrait filled with violence and destruction. To illustrate this point, Popkin included several paintings of the Haitian Revolution, as well as the American Revolution. While an image of George Washington peacefully praying in the forest represented the US’ fight for independence, artists portrayed Haiti in a savage manor: a landscape of people running around and homes being burned to the ground in the foreground. It’s interesting to note that while death was common and necessary during the Haitian revolution, more individuals died during the American Revolutionary War. In order to maintain the idea that the American fight for independence resulted “great liberty”, historians have down-played the truly liberating revolution in Haiti. Despite achieving liberty for all of its population, the Haitian Revolution has been silenced.