Here’s an excellent article by Randall Robinson about Haiti and its fight for independence 200 years ago. Some highlights:
St. Domingue (as Haiti was then called by the French) was at that time the most prosperous colonial possession of any European power. It created far greater wealth for France than the thirteen American colonies combined. Its massive wealth-generating capacity caused it to be known far and wide as “The Pearl of the Antilles” and its French owners had a clear and proven management strategy for profit maximization: push the slaves to their absolute physical limit, work them literally to death, and then quickly import replacement slaves from Africa who would, in turn, be worked to death. This, St. Domingue’s plantocracy had discovered, controlled operating costs, kept the pace of economic activity at a highly efficient and productive pace, minimized slack and wastage, and produced massive, stupendous profits.
St. Domingue’s policy of working its slaves to death and then quickly importing replacements from Africa proved to be the ultimate karmic boomerang. St. Domingue’s African-born slaves not only were not yet broken psychologically, but they were also in possession of significant military training and experience gained on the other side of the Atlantic. And they combined with brilliant, indefatigable, St. Domingue-born blacks like Toussaint L’Ouverture and Dessalines to create a black revolutionary juggernaut the likes of which Europe and the United States had not seen before – or since.
The Blacks of St. Domingue forced the world to see both them and the millions of other Africans enslaved throughout the Americas with new eyes. No longer could it be assumed that they could forever be brutalized into creating massive fortunes and building sprawling empires for the glory of Europe and America.
On January 1, 1804, hundreds of thousands of slave revolutionaries established an independent republic and named it Haiti in honor of the Amerindian people, long since killed off by European brutality and diseases, who had called the land Ayiti – Land of Many Mountains. They had banished slavery from their land and proclaimed it an official refuge for escaped slaves from anywhere in the world. They had defeated the mightiest of the mighty. They had shattered the myth of European invincibility.
Europe was livid. America, apoplectic. The blacks in St. Domingue had forgotten their place and would be made to pay. Dearly. For the next two hundred years.
The complete article is a great history lesson, especially for those of us who were taught his-story in American schools.
Happy Bicentennial to Haiti and thanks to Kamau for highlighting the article.