The Shadow of Saint-Domingue The First Great African Revolution

The Haitian Revolution was a pivotal moment in the history of the African diaspora, but it encouraged as much Black revolutionary zeal as it deterred.

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Haiti hardly ever features among the great revolutions of history—the French Revolution and the ‘Glorious Revolution’ in Britain are usually the hallmarks in any discourse concerning the overthrow of political structures and their replacement with more liberal strains of government. However, between 1791-1803, enslaved Africans in Haiti started a rebellion and created their own nation. There is no other example of a successful ‘slave revolt’ in human history. The results of the Haitian Revolution, though, differ starkly from its more celebrated counterparts due to the consequences imposed on the fledgling country by colonial empires. What ought to have been a celebration of liberalism and equality in line with the tenets of the French Revolution was instead seen by the empires as a dire loss of capital to be recouped, by any means necessary. The influence of the Haitian miracle on Black radical schools of thought is clear, including on movements such as Négritude led by Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor. Thus, the Haitian Revolution is perhaps the single most remarkable political event in the African diasporic context, and its influence on political thought and action on the continent deserves more in-depth analysis...

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