Three words and a thrill, an unequaled act of heroism, the Haitian revolution is a central event in the history of Africans, our greatest war of liberation. It is of these 13 years, which mark the beginning of a light in the middle of the black holocaust, that we are going to talk to you about.
Haiti before the revolution
In the beginning were the Taino, Natives who used to name their country Ayiti. They were in part exterminated by the European invaders, the rest died of disease and bad treatment. The Native Haitians were able to tell Christopher Columbus that they had been visited by black merchants coming in big ships for trading. Columbus mentioned it in the Journal of the second trip. He would confirm their statements by the analysis in Spain of a spear from Haiti whose composition of metals was absolutely identical to the spears of the West African coast .
At the discretion of the destruction of the very rich Africa and its hundreds of millions in human losses through the European trafficking, it was African deportees who would arrive in the country. This in circumstances diametrically opposed to those of their prestigious ancestors. After surviving the horrible travel, they are put in slavery to produce the coffee and sugar which the resurgent Europe is fond of.
The Hell of Africans in Saint Domingue
Africans are whipped by the French settlers to accelerate the pace of production, they have almost no right to rest, their food is worse in quantity and quality than those of animals, they are dressed in rags.
For the slightest deviation of conduct, they are put naked, the belly against the ground, the 4 limbs attached to pillars of wood, and whipped until their backs and limbs are covered with wounds. The cuts are so terrible that whipping is called “to trim a nigger”. One then takes care in pouring lemon or pepper on these wounds. The bodies are covered with scars, horribly mutilated. To some of them canon powder is put in the anus before making it explode. It is called “Make a nigger’s ass explode “.
The ear or the foot are cut when they attempt to escape. The Africans wear a muzzle in tin to prevent them from eating the precious sugar, the rape of Black females is a sport enjoyed by white masters.
Africans are killed for the slightest pretext, put alive in furnaces, immersed in lime, thrown into crushers, given to carnivore birds, to dogs, and even to the wasps after their bodies have been coated with syrup. The life expectancy is 8 to 10 years, the suicides are many, African women abort or kill their new born by the thousands in order to save them from this apocalyptic life. Some are even happy to be sentenced to death, because they will be able to return spiritually to their beloved Africa.
It is by boatloads that new Africans must continue to be deported to replace those who die. Saint Domingue (former name of Haiti) becomes the richest colony of the Americas, the pearl of France, and is renowned for the exceptional cruelty with which Africans put in slavery are dealt with by the French. The African-Colombian historian Rosa Amelia Plumelle-Uribe said it, the European Slave Trade was the equivalent of the genocide of the Jews, but not during 6 years only, for 350 years. The European slave trade is the worst crime in the history of humanity.
In the face of this unspeakable concentration-camp style situation, the revolts are incessant. The most famous before the revolution is that of Mackandal in 1758. An African of Kongo origin and vitalist (animist) priest, he kills by poisoning hundreds of Whites, before being taken and put to death.
In 1791 Haiti accounts between 500 000 and 900 000 enslaved Blacks, of which one by the name of Jean Jacques Dessalines who might be born in Guinea; Tens of thousands of slaves who escaped and rebels called Maroons – from Cimarron/Marro i.e. to escape in Spanish – Mackandal was part of them; 20 000 Whites, among which small whites assigned to little important works. Finally 30,000 Blacks and free half-caste who benefit to varying degrees from the system, generally have a European lifestyle, are Roman Catholic and look down on the African culture of the enslaved. Among those Blacks who became free, Toussaint Louverture, an African traditional doctor and son of a Fon dignitary of Danhomé (today Benin).
The ceremony of Bois Caïman, the beginning of the revolution
The founding act of the revolution arises from a colossus by the name of Bookman Dutty Zamba. Born in Jamaica, he is a Hungan i.e. a Vodun priest. Vodun means form of God in Fon Language of current Benin. His name Zamba meaning God among the Fangs of Cameroon could tell us about his origins or influences. Hungan resembles Hogon, which is the name of the highest religious authority among the Dogon of Mali.
Bookman manages to build relationships with other Africans. That is how he goes on to organize a Vodun ceremony in the middle of the night of August 14th 1791, with dozens of people, at the place called Bois Caïman in Mezy. In the vitalist tradition, he makes there a magnificent and moving prayer, which recalls in its introductory style the Ancestor Akhenaton’s anthem to God. In it, Boukman pleads to the God of Africa in these terms:
(Translation reported by the African-Carribean historian Claude Ribbe) :
“The God who created the earth, who created the sun that gives us light
The god who holds the oceans, who ensures the roar of the thunder
God who has ears to hear, Thou who is hidden in the clouds, who shows us from where we are, you see that the White makes us suffer
The God of the white man asks him to commit crimes
But the god inside of us wants us to do good,
Our God who is so good, so fair, commands us to avenge our wrongs
It is he who will lead our weapons and will bring us to victory
It is he who will help us
We should all reject the image of the white man’s god who is so ruthless
Listen to the voice of freedom that sings in all our hearts”
Cecile Fatiman, a mambo (Vodun priestess), presides over the ceremony. It is under the possession of Ogun, the form of God responsible for war among the Yoruba of Nigeria-Benin, that she sacrifices a black pig probably to be offered to the primordial Ancestor (God). The Africans drink the animal’s blood. Cecile Fatiman performs ritual dances and designates Bookman, Georges Biassou and Jeannot to lead the rebellion.
The rumor spreads among the Africans that a prophetic ceremony was just held. Many are made aware of the events to come. In the night of August 21st to 22nd 1791, the fury stored by 150 years of unprecedented abuse erupts, under a word of order in Creole Koupé Têt, Bwilé Kay (cut off the heads, burn the houses).
The enslaved Africans of the 5 largest plantations rise up. Advancing to the sound of the drum as in Africa, they burn nearly 1000 properties and systematically kill all white people they encounter, including women and children, and rape white women. Joined in the fight by the Maroons, they use the bodies of their victims as banner. The very prosperous Haiti is on fire, more than a thousand Whites are killed in the first hours of the revolution. Bookman is killed in November, his head exposed. The colonial troops sent to quell the rebellion in the vicinity of Port au Prince are crushed by the enslaved associated with free Blacks.
The coalition marches on Port-au-Prince, but the free Blacks who benefit from slavery negotiate an agreement with the Whites. The authorities use this to recognize citizenship claimed by the free Blacks in order to divide and to finish with the revolution. Citizenship that some Whites, irretrievably sickened by Africans, do not want. The country is thus divided in 3 camps: enslaved Blacks and the Maroons, the free Blacks and Whites favorable to their citizenship, the Whites refusing citizenship for Blacks. Paris sends Léger Félicité Sonthonax with thousands of men to resolve the situation.
The first abolition
Sonthonax arrives in a country at war where thousands of Whites have been killed. In February 1793, with the help of his armies and diplomacy, he manages to quell the White radicals, to quell the insurgent slaves, and to make an alliance with the free Blacks. Saint Domingue remains a French colony. The Africans during this time reinforce their armies and refine their techniques of war, under the command of the new General Toussaint Louverture, former aide-de-camp of Biassou.
The dissensions between the black leaders for the control of the Revolution worsen nonetheless. But the beginning of the war between the English and the French and the end of the kingship with the decapitation of Louis XVI, gives the opportunity to the white radicals to get rid of French trusteeship by sealing an alliance with the English.
Faced with the threat of a British invasion from Jamaica and lacking troops, Sonthonax, desperate, seeks help from well-trained Africans, and takes an incredible bet in the face of certain defeat: the abolition of slavery in exchange for the incorporation of the Africans in the French army to fight against England. On 29 August 1793, Sonthonax signs a decree abolishing slavery, with the duty to resume work all the same in plantations for those who do not fight. Sonthonax, like Abraham Lincoln, had never been really anti-Slavery, he was a circumstantial abolitionist, for political gains. This decision brings about the ulceration of the Whites.
The emergence of Toussaint Louverture
Toussaint negotiates with the French and ensuring that they will recognize the end of slavery, he decides to engage his troops against the English in 1794. In 7 years, Toussaint, a man of exceptional military qualities, manages to become – helped by his lieutenant Dessalines – the undisputed leader of Blacks by defeating the other black Generals, by making Sonthonax and the French authorities leave, defeating the British, and by occupying the other part of the large island of Hispaniola, currently the Dominican Republic, after his victory against the Spanish.
Toussaint Louverture becomes in 1801 the sole ruler of the island of Hispaniola, today Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He abolishes slavery throughout the island but decides to monitor the work on the plantations. He wants to make Catholicism the religion of the State and confirms his allegiance to France, opens trade with USA and the British. But one man would stand up against his plans : emperor Napoleon.
The motivations of Napoleon
In France a General in the name of Napoleon Bonaparte manages to impose himself as emperor by putting an end to the chaos following the end of the monarchy. Napoleon knows that he is a descendant of Francesco Buonaparte, one of these black Berbers from North Africa – called Moors – who occupied and civilized Spain, Portugal and Sicily between the 8th and the 15 th century. Called a mulatto (half-caste) by the English, Napoleon has a pathological hatred for Blacks, as much as Hitler would later have for the Jews which he descended perhaps from.
According to Claude Ribbe, his wife the empress Josephine, who had freed enslaved Africans and had a hidden half-caste daughter in Martinique, was in nothing associated in his decision to restore slavery, contrary to what is said. The motivation of Napoleon is therefore in his own words “My decision to destroy the authority of the Blacks in Saint Domingue is not so much based on considerations of commerce and money…as on the need to block forever the forward march of Blacks in the world.” .
Napoleon, the worthy predecessor of Hitler
On February 2, 1802, 10 000 men under the command of General Leclerc, brother-in-law of Napoleon, come to exterminate Blacks and restore slavery with new imported and more docile Africans. Slowing down Leclerc, the Haitian General Henri Christophe, future Head of State, sets fire to Cape François. This beautiful city crumbles under the flames. In 3 months, Leclerc conquers the island, Toussaint capitulates and his generals among who Dessalines put themselves under French command.
Ageing, Toussaint is invited by the French to discuss; the latter capture him and imprison him in France near the Swiss border. He dies in 1803, alone and in the cold. Leclerc who feels the anger rise kill the Haitian General Maurepas, after drowning his family before his eyes. He then starts, followed by General Rochambeau, the extermination of the Haitians. Rochambeau is chosen by Napoleon under a last hour recommendation of Leclerc who argues in his favor by saying “He hates the Blacks” 
The French are ordered to kill every Black older than 12 years. Children under 12 years of age are however killed, stabbed to death, put in bags and thrown into the sea. The prisoners of the 2 sides are tortured and their heads mounted on the walls of palisades or on pointes at the roadsides.
Sulfur is extracted from the Haitian volcanoes and burnt to produce sulphide dioxide which is then used to gass Africans in boat holds. More than 100 000 of them are killed this way, after terrible sufferings. It is therefore Napoleonic France who invented on the Blacks the macabre concept of gas chambers that Hitler used on the Jews. 600 Bulldogs trained to eat Blacks arrive on the island, acclaimed by the Europeans, before being unleashed to devour Africans.
Dessalines and the final victory
Determined to fight until death, the Haitians, guided by the Vodun cult, fight with the last energy for their freedom, under the command of Jean Jacques Dessalines. Their resistance is formidable, they gain ground.
The entire island is set ablaze, the yellow fever which has killed Leclerc decimates the French troops. A new war breaks out between France and England. The British provide weapons to Dessalines and the French are deprived of their supplies. They are defeated at Cape François and allowed to return to France. They do, however, retain for a time the Dominican Republic.
Dessalines decides, in retaliation, the extermination of the French settlers who remained, about 3 to 5000 people. On January 1st 1804, after having defeated the French settlers, the British, the Spanish and the great army of Napoleon, the Republic of Haiti is proclaimed. It becomes the first black republic of modern times, after the Republic of Carthage during the African pharaonic era.
Haiti declares itself “homeland of Africans of the new world and their descendants”. This country remains through Vodun which is still strong and by its population almost entirely black, the most African country of the Americas. 400 000 Backs have paid with their lives for the end of slavery. The Haitian revolution is Africans’ greatest war of liberation.
The debt of independence, the poverty of Haiti and the demonization of the Vodun
This freedom of Blacks was never digested by France. So that the Haitian example does not gain momentum in the other French West Indies and even throughout the black world, it was decided to destroy Haiti economically and culturally. In 1825, France imposed, on the ground of repairs for the losses related to the end of slavery, the equivalent of US$21 billion to recognize the independence of the country, threatening to send a fleet of 14 boats to restore slavery. Haiti only finished paying this abominable and unfair ransom in 1972.
This debt is the main explanation for the poverty of Haiti, which passed from the status of relatively rich country to the poorest of the Americas. Haiti the Heroic has become the laughing stock of the Caribbean. In 2004 the Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, determined to celebrate the 200 years of the revolution and to talk about the debt, was deposed by a coup organized by France and the USA.
The demonization of the Vodun is also rooted in the media treatment of the country. This form of Vitalism which served to beat Europeans is mocked, ridiculed absolutely everywhere, even in cinema productions, showed as the flagship of the supposed lack of logic of Africans. Such an obsessed attitude, aims to divert the Africans from their spirituality which has given them so much. It is a success.
This country with a prestigious past, has given so much both to the black and American world, and still has many battles to carry out. The history of Haiti still needs to be written.
By: Lisapo ya Kama © (All rights reserved. Any copying or translation of the text of this article is strictly forbbiden without the written approval of Lisapo ya Kama)
- Bob Colbert for the University of Webster in St Louis
- Articles of Claude Ribbe :
- French Fuhrer : Genocidal Napoleon was as barbaric as Hitler, historian claims (le Fuhrer francais : Le génocidaire Napoléon était aussi barbare qu’Hitler, d’après un historien), Daily Mail
- Bois Caïman,Une autre histoire
- Francesco Buonaparte, Une autre histoire
- Joséphine, responsable du rétablissement de l’esclavage par Napoléon?, Une autre histoire
- La fille cachée de Joséphine, Une autre histoire
- L’indemnité imposée par la France à Haïti, Une autre histoire
- L’enlèvement du président Aristide, Une autre histoire
- La violence dans l’esclavage des colonies françaises au 18esiècle, Neba Fabrice YALE, Université Pierre Mendes France of Grenoble.
- La férocité blanche, des non-Blancs aux non-Aryens : génocides occultés de 1492 à nos jours ; Rosa Amelia Plumelle-Uribe.
- History of Haiti, Brown University
-  Early America Revisited, Ivan Van Sertima, page 3
-  La violence dans l’esclavage des colonies françaises au 18esiècle, Neba Fabrice YALE, Université Pierre Mendes France de Grenoble
-  Ohio State University, 7th paragraph from the end
-  History of Haiti, Brown University