Don’t Forget Haiti

Haiti, a country formerly colonized by France, has some of the most interesting and complex histories of any other country. Professor Jeremy P. Popkin gave an extremely thought-provoking lecture which was titled, “New Perspectives on the Haitian Revolution”. He lectured about the history of Haiti’s culture and how the Haitian Revolution transformed the country entirely. The Haitian Revolution was a time of slave liberation and the establishment of an entirely new free state. It was risky, as most other revolutions are. The revolution allowed for Haitians to establish themselves independently of European control and influences. It gave the people of Haiti the power to finally do as they wished with their country.

Relative to the American and French Revolutions, the Haitian revolution was not given nearly as much prestige and senses of accomplishment as these other two revolutions were. Comparatively, the Haitian revolution was downsized and not given the same amount of attention as the American and French revolutions. A large portion of Professor Popkin’s argument was that this was due to present prejudices against people of color. Revolutions are typically a triumph for those who write history. However, Professor Popkin argues that because those who were writing and recording the history were likely also white slaveholders, the Haitian Revolution was not perceived as a victory. It was therefore pushed aside and brushed under the rug, like some kind of dirty secret that you didn’t want to be uncovered.

Why was this happening? Why wasn’t the Haitian Revolution spoken about and celebrated? Who were the large parties at play that kept it this way? Professor Popkin’s lecture was able to answer all of these questions for his listeners. At the time of the Haitian Revolution, slavery in America was still very much present and a crucial part of the American economy. Slave-holding Americans at the time would not be inclined to spread word of a successful slave rebellion because of the implications that that would hold for a slave holding America.

In American history classes, this revolution is not likely to get much attention due to it’s lack of impact on American history. Putting this revolution into the perspective of America at the time, American’s had just undergone their own American Revolution. They were able to successfully establish their own independence as a free country and they were focused now on establishing a government which would accurately represent their values and carry the country to success in the coming years. The Haitian Revolution, in contrast to this was competing with the attention of the American Revolution.

For reasons of preserving slavery in America and competitive attention between the American Revolution and the Haitian Revolution, Professor Popkin is able to provide an adequate argument explaining why the Haitian Revolution did not get the attention that it likely did deserve. History is represented within the perspective of it’s time. Historical perspectives are important to consider when examining the perceived importance of a historical event.