I refuse to believe that I am alone in this, however, I am nonetheless ashamed to say I knew very little of the Haitian Revolution before this lecture by Jeremy D. Popkin. It is unique from other revolutions of its time and this adds to the element of surprise around my lack of recollection of any sort of discussion of this revolution as a part of history. This uniqueness may in part be related to the fact that historians seem not to frequently mention this revolution despite it being circa the French and American revolutions. These revolutions differed in what the nations were each fighting for. America was fighting for freedom from the British monarch, and France was fighting for liberty within their own nation. Haiti on the other hand, was fighting for much more than what either of these other countries were fighting for at the time, and that was freedom and abolishment of slavery. Even with the indepence of France and America, neither nation abolished slavery for many years afterwards. This was not the case in Haiti, and in this way it is almost clear that the Haitian Revolution was even an even greater historical feat than many other revolutions of its time. It was groundbreaking and astronomical in comparison to the United States, who didn’t have liberty for all for many more years after it became an independent nation.
We note the clear historical significance of this event easily by bringing it up in contrast with the other revolutions of it’s time, but this does not explain why this revolution is so frequently left out of modern history books and why this is not a more commonly referenced revolution in the history of humankind. This according to Popkin can be arguably attributed to the historians of the time not wanting to talk about the Haitian Revolution because they knew it was in fact a greater accomplishment than the United States own independence being gained from Britain. This leads to a thought of the U.S. government officials or historians at the time intentionally attempting to censor or leave out the Haitian Revolution as an attempt to make people perhaps remain content with slavery during this era, and perhaps as a means of blinding the public about our own countries revolution in comparison to other nations of the time. So despite Haiti achieving the amazing act of complete equality for all of its citizens years before the United States, we almost attempted to cover up this Haitian Revolution as something that wasn’t quite comparable to our own revolution, and wasn’t as groundbreaking even though it was absolutely the opposite.
This Haitian Revolution, was absolutely revolutionary in terms of its accomplishment of true equality and liberty. Why was this revolution so far ahead of its time in this manner? It can be assumed that part of the reason the revolution was able to take place during this era was because the population of Haiti had a greater number of blacks than whites, which allowed the masses to mobilize effectively and allowed such an incredible revolution to take place. It is very intriguing to consider this revolution in comparison to our modern day political events, and modern social revolutions. Will modern social revolutions and movements today be forgotten promptly for years to come? Or is this forgetting of the Haitian Revolution merely a product of our ability to ignore less influential or large countries historical achievements? Popkin made one thing very clear, and that is that we do not know everything, and we are neither the first nor will we be the last to forget or ignore a very major event in human history.