bmh_haitian_revolution_snapshots-b_BLACK_HISTORY_MONTH_2006-2007

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Brief history of Haitian revolution

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The Haitian War of Independence::

1 The Haitian War of Independence: An Episode in African world History

1. On the plantation:

2 1. On the plantation By the early 1500s, the adventurer Christopher Columbus had only been in the New World for a few years. Even so, the native people of the land which came to be called ‘Central America’ had begun to die off. What was killing them was forced labour in the gold mines, the general cruelty of the European colonisers, as well as new diseases brought by the Europeans, to which their bodies had no chance to become immune.

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3 A catholic priest, father Bartolome de las Casas, nick-named at the time ‘the friend of the Indians’, suggested a solution to the disappearance of the native people of that region. In a letter to the king of Spain he wrote: “I have heard that the people of Africa have strong backs, capable of much hard labour. Why not use them, instead to work our mines and our plantations in the New World?” So it was done and so began the enslavement of Africans to enrich Europe with gold, coffee, sugar and other goods taken from the ‘New World’, which came to be known as ‘North, South and Central America, including the Caribbean’. So began a situation, often called the ‘Triangular Trade’ by historians, which lasted for about 400 years.

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4 This is a mural of Father Bartolomé de las Casas.

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5 This painting shows a slave drive. Slaves were chained together and marched to the African coast. Sometimes this could take many days or weeks. Slaves who did not move fast enough, or showed any sign of resistance to the traders, were whipped. Those simply too sick to travel were either killed or left to die.

2. Meeting in the Caiman Woods:

6 2. Meeting in the Caiman Woods By the late 1700s, all the major countries of Europe were involved in the enslavement of Africans. They were used as forced labour for the New World territories stolen from the natives who lived there. It was a cruel system which denied Africans all basic human rights and treated them worse than farm animals. Both in Africa and in the Americas, Africans fought hard against slavery. One place where their struggle was eventually successful was Saint Domingue, which came to be known as the ‘Republic of Haiti’.

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7 In 1791, the people of France were starting to claim their human rights from their rulers. These were the first stirrings of the French Revolution. At about the same time, a few enslaved Africans met at night in the Caiman Woods, in the north of Saint Domingue. In that secret meeting, they took an oath to fight until all enslaved people in that country were free, no matter how long it took, no matter what it cost. Thus began the Haitian Revolution.

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8 This is an artist’s rendition of the Caiman Woods ceremony, marking the start of the Haitian revolution in 1791.

3. General Toussaint Louverture:

9 3. General Toussaint Louverture One leader at that ceremony who stood out from all the others was Toussaint L’Ouverture. Even though it was illegal and could actually get him killed, Toussaint secretly learned to read and write in French. He used his literacy to learn about leadership and warfare, for the benefit of his people. “When we Africans in Saint Domingue revolted against the French enslavers, they asked me to be their leader and to negotiate for their freedom. We fought and won many battles against the French forces stationed in Saint Domingue. At the same time, I began writing letters to Napoleon, the new leader of the French people after their revolution, asking him to respect the human rights of we Africans in Saint Domingue, just as he valued the rights of his own French people”.

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10 “There are not many actual portraits of me. This is a one by the artist Maurin, based on a lost earlier drawing (1838)”.

4. The Betrayal:

11 4. The Betrayal “At first, Napoleon ignored my letters. Eventually, he sent some powerful warships with orders to capture me and re-establish slavery in Saint-Domingue. Upon arriving in Saint Domingue, the French generals invited me to a special dinner on their ship, promising to deliver to me a letter from Napoleon. We suspected a trap, but we were also eager to stop the war and secure freedom for African people by peaceful means, if we could. My family and I attended the dinner and were in fact captured and quickly taken to France”.

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12 It has been reported that, upon his capture, Toussaint said these words: “ The tree of freedom has strong roots which run deep. Cut it down and it will grow again, even stronger. ” This is exactly what happened. The minute they learned about Toussaint’s kidnapping, his lieutenants named Jean-Jacques Dessalines as their new leader and decided that the Africans would take over Saint Domingue and throw the French out once and for all.

5. The battle of Vertierres:

13 5. The battle of Vertierres By November 1803, Napoleon had already sent two powerful armies to Saint Domingue. Their mission was to either re-enslave the Africans or exterminate them. In a region called Vertierres, African revolutionaries and French troops were locked in pitched battle. The African general Francois Capois, known to his men as Capois Death for his bravery, got his horse shot out from under him. “I kept on leading the charge, as if nothing had happened. General Rochambeau, one of Napoleon’s top leaders stopped the fighting and had a fresh horse brought to me as a gesture of admiration for my bravery. Then the battle started again” .

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14 This is the monument to the Battle of Vertières.

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15 Here is an image of me, François Capois on a Haitian banknote today.

6. Independence day:

16 6. Independence day The French were defeated at the battle of Vertierres and with them any chance to bring slavery back to Saint Domingue. In an official ceremony on 1 st January 1804, I, Dessalines re-named Saint Domingue, the Republic of ‘Haiti’. ‘Haiti’ is what the native people called their country before they were wiped out by the European invaders. It means ‘land of many mountains’. I also created the Haitian flag by ripping out the white part from the French red, white and blue and sewing the red and blue together.

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17 Here is an independence day portrait of me, Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

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18 This is an artist’s rendition of Miss Catherine Flon sewing the red and blue together to make up the new flag of Haiti, 1804.

This map shows Haiti’s location in the Caribbean.:

19 This map shows Haiti’s location in the Caribbean.

The coat of arms of Haiti was first introduced in 1807, and has appeared in its current form since 1986. It shows draped flags, which are located before a palm tree and cannons on a green lawn. On the lawn various items are found, such as a drum, a bugle, long guns, and ship anchors. :

20 The coat of arms of Haiti was first introduced in 1807, and has appeared in its current form since 1986. It shows draped flags, which are located before a palm tree and cannons on a green lawn. On the lawn various items are found, such as a drum, a bugle, long guns, and ship anchors. Above the palm tree, there is a Phrygian cap placed as a symbol of freedom. The ribbon bears the national motto of Haiti: L'Union Fait La Force (French for “In unity there is strength").

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21 It was the unity of Africans in Haiti that helped them to win their independence. This same unity can help Africans in the Caribbean and in Africa today One Africa – one people! One Africa – one people! One Africa – one people!

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