Haitian Revolution

1791 slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue
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The Haitian Revolution was a successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue, now the sovereign nation of Haiti.

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  • The Good Lord who created the sun which gives us light from above, who rouses the sea and makes the thunder roar—listen well, all of you—this god, hidden in the clouds, watches us. He sees all that the white man does. The god of the white man calls him to commit crimes; our god asks only good works of us. But this god who is so good orders revenge! He will direct our hands; he will aid us. Throw away the image of the god of the whites who thirsts for our tears and listen to the voice of liberty which speaks in the hearts of all of us.
  • From their French masters, [the slaves] had known rape, torture, degradation, and, at the slightest provocation, death. They returned in kind. For two centuries the higher civilization had shown them that power was used for wreaking your will on those whom you controlled. Now that they held power they did as they had been taught.
  • Historians otherwise eager to find evidence of “external” participation in the 1791 uprising skip the unmistakable evidence that the rebellious slaves had their own program. In one of their earliest negotiations with representatives of the French government, the leaders of the rebellion did not ask for an abstractly couched “freedom.” Rather, their most sweeping demands included three days a week to work on their own gardens and the elimination of the whip. These were not Jacobinist demands adapted to the tropics, nor royalist claims twice creolized. These were slave demands with the strong peasant touch that would characterize independent Haiti. But such evidence of an internal drive, although known to most historians, is not debated—not even to be rejected or interpreted otherwise. It is simply ignored, and this ignorance produces a silence of trivialization.
  • The slaves burned everything, yes, but, unfortunately, they only burned everything in Haiti. Theirs was the greatest and most successful revolution in the history of the world but the failure of their fire to cross the waters was the great tragedy of the nineteenth century.

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