Tag: black

Black Revolutions Matter

In all of my years of schooling, I have taken many classes on World history; learning about Greece, England, France, and other European countries. However, it wasn’t until the lecture with Jeremy Popkin from the University of Kentucky, that I learned of the Haitian Revolution.  After thinking back a bit more, this lecture was one of the first times in my life that I have learned, in a school setting, about a non-European revolution that was galvanized by majority non-Whites. I asked myself, why? There seems to be a pattern, in history, of the achievements of people of color being minimized and even erased altogether. In this post, I will explore the ways in which the people of color have been suppressed and oppressed by these happenings.

Two of the most talked about revolutions of the late 18th to 19th century are the French and the American Revolution. While they may have taken place in different parts of the world, both of these revolutions opposed rights and freedom of non-rights; they were essentially all about suppressing the rights of blacks while gaining the right to establish government. In contrast, the Haitian revolution was all about fighting for the freedoms and rights of African slaves and other marginalized groups.  The fact that the Haitian Revolution has been so silenced by historians, goes to show that the revolution is thought of as less complex, less noteworthy, and less significant, when in fact it was a major historical event, as the largest successful slave uprising in history.

I believe that it’s important to list some of the defining characteristics of The Haitian Revolution, as it has been largely ignored, up until a few decades ago. As noted in the last paragraph, the Haitian Revolution was the largest successful slave uprising in the world. The revolution was a 12 year battle against slavery and colonialism that resulted in acts of extreme violence by both sides of the conflict. Haiti finally got ints independence from France in 1804. This victory led to many progressive movements, such as the addition of Jean Baptiste Relley, a Black man,  to the French Parliament.

Despite the obvious importance of the revolution, which has been laid out in this post, the Haitian Revolution is still only known about by a small group of people, who are mostly African-American. This is the result of the erasure of the revolution. We cannot allow this to keep happening to the significant historical achievements of people of color. While it may seem that this happened hundreds of year ago, it is also happening on this very day. As of last year, legislators is Texas and other states were trying to write slavery out of public school textbooks. These books referred to African slaves as “migrant workers” who came to the New World freely, and depicted European indentured servants as those who truly suffered during this time. The falsity of this statement is huge and obvious to anyone who knows any American history, but if we don’t address these dangers acts, this could be the information that children one day learn in school.

The Whitewashing of History

The lack of inclusion in history for American and European curriculum is not just a coincidence but a deliberate act. Tonight’s lecture not only touched on the ways we as American not only forget the past but complete avoid parts of our past. This problem of holding a very eurocentric view of history is not a thing of recent times or even of past times, it has always and will continue to always be a problem until we as Americans confront the issue and demand more.

The Haitian Revolution of 1791, a revolution that lasted twelve years, can and should be considered the first fight for total equality and anti-colonialism in the world. Over one hundred and fifty years before the anti-colonial era following World War II, I would argue Haiti was the first country to truly adhere to and attempt to obtain the ideals of liberty and equality. Unlike the United States and France who promoted ideals of liberty and equality, Haiti was a slave insurrection that attempted to implement these ideas once it gained its independence, giving equal status to its citizens years before either states even abolished slavery.

With that said, why do we as a nation seem to brush this revolution off as some sort of blip in the historical timeline? Professor Popkin notes that in just a common interest sense, most people who search the event are African American and that most white people ignore or are simply not interested. Whether this is rooted in some inherently racial ideas, doubtful, but I would argue that this lack of interest stems from the notion of history ingrained in our heads from childhood that the only type of history that matters is that which concerns white lives and bodies. You would be hard pressed to learn about the wonders of Native American cultures and wars, African contributions to thought in our conception of government, and surely not the contributions of people of color to the technological and philosophical advancement of Europe during the enlightenment- it just does not happen.

In this white washing, Professor Popkin is trying to create a new narrative. One that includes the Haitian Revolution as one that is apart of the lineage of democratic ideals and the foundation of the dissemination of democratic principles throughout both the western world and easter world, from the Caribbean and France all the way to Southeast Asia. Further it also contributed to the ways both the French and Americans considered the issue of race and the notion of inferiority as the Haitian Revolution both dispelled the myth of inferiority and made leaders think heavily on the animosities created by racial divides and possibility of rebellion.