Tag: haiti

Remembering Haiti

Some of the most significant political revolutions took place in the late 18th and early 19th Century. The American Revolution in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1789, which gave birth to democracy and outlined the idea of power amongst the common people. But Wait. We are still missing one major event. Its the Haiti Revolution, which took place in 1804. This event saw the rise of power of slaves to overthrow the colonial French rule and establish an independent empire of Haiti. If you probably never heard about the ‘Haiti Revolution’ until now, there is no need to be worried. You are not alone. Time and time again it has been overlooked by the western historians, simply because it was caused by the blacks.

Jeremy D. Popkin, in his lecture ‘New Perspectives on the Haitian Revolution’ discussed in detail about the Haiti Revolution, which took place in the ‘age of revolutions’. Amongst many things he discussed as to why Haiti Revolution is not talked about much. Possibly because, being caused by blacks, historians did not simply consider it a revolution. Maybe, for them, it was more like a black uprising. this also talks a lot about how racism in general has evolved over the years. By establishing an independent empire of Haiti, the black slaves had strived for liberty and independence. Yet they were not provided the glory of the American and the French revolution.

It is important that whole of mankind remembers the Haiti Revolution. For it is events like this which inspire people, encourage them to take on the world and bring about a change, a revolution.

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 Haitian Revolution and Spartacus

Before I attended the lecture this evening, I’m not sure that I had ever heard of the Haitian Revolution. At some point it might have been mentioned in a class or conversation, but there is no way that the information stuck. This is the importance of this seminar, because I am able to expand my my horizons and learn about important events in history that should never be forgotten. What makes the Haitian Revolution so special is that it was forgotten. It is interesting that an entire revolution can be basically “erased” from history. Professor Jeremy Popkin from the University of Kentucky  gave an interesting lecture on this forgotten revolution. He choose to compare this revolution to the French and American Revolutions. This intrigued me to go look more into the revolution to learn about how it is recorded in history. I expanded my knowledge about this event in history by reading about the Haitian Revolution and by attending the lecture by Professor Jeremy Popkin from the University of Kentucky.

First off, the Haitian Revolution happened in part because of people uprising against slavery and colonialism. Not only was this uprising very successful, but it also impacted other countries revolutions, including but not limited to the United States. In my readings I saw interesting parallels drawn between the Haitian revolution and the uprising lead by Spartacus against the Roman Empire. Apparently the Haitian Revolution was the largest slave uprising since the one led by Spartacus 2000 years prior to it. This uprising in the Roman Republic was led by the respected military leader and former Gladiator, Spartacus. History is not completely sure about all the exact events, but it is well known that the uprising occurred because people in Rome were tired of being oppressed by the oligarchy. After years of oppression, Spartacus came along and was the strong leader needed to lead the rebellion. Although it is not clear that Sparticus actually intended to abolish slavery in the Roman Republic, that is what he accomplished. Even if his intent was just to liberate many of the oppresses people such as gladiators, he was able to set the entire republic into a revolution that there was no coming back from. Just like Haiti, Rome was never the same again once there was a unified uprising of the oppressed against the oppressors. These revolutions changed the course of history even though it is better remembered in rome.

This is a classic example about how Revolutions can move in cycles that are destined to repeat themselves. It is so interesting to hear about haw anti-slavery revolutions that occurred all the way in Europe also happened all the way across the Atlantic ocean under very similar circumstances but 2000 years later than the prior. What was once revolted against has occurred more than once and is destined to occur again in the future. Revolutions rarely stand on their own and may even be repeated against the wishes of those that try to erase them from the record of history.



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.