Title of Course: Black History 201: The History of Haiti

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #13: Black Power Erupts [ Audio Version]

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.


(1) Who was Boukman? Did Boukman start the San Domingo (Haitian) Revolution, or did he continue what other slaves in San Domingo had started years before?
(2) Once the San Domingo Revolution started, did the slaves spare any whites?
(3) Were many slaves willing to participate in the San Domingo Revolution?
(4) What happened when Boukman was captured?
(5) What was THE issue in the San Domingo Revolution, race or human equality?

Class #13 Essay

The talk surrounding the French Revolution began to take center stage, particularly the part that emphasized the rights of all men. The Blacks on the island were especially inspired by such talk. As a result, there was a series of revolts that resulted in the destruction of sugar cane plantations and the massacre of thousands of white colonists.

But such activities had been going on for decades. A Black slave named Boukman, who was unknown to the white elites, was to take it to a higher level of accomplishment. Boukman was a foreman on a sugar plantation in Limbé, somewhat west of Cap Francais. It was in one of Limbé's mills that Macandal had lost his right arm, the same Macandal who had been executed 33 years before for planning a revolution. Certainly Boukman had heard about Macandal.

It is probable that no one "important" knew who the English named Boukman was. It is said that Boukman was a voodoo high priest and that he started the Haitian Revolution with one of his sermons in the Bois Caiman in the northern mountains of the island. It was the night of August 14, 1791. The first place attacked was the plantation of Boukman's owner.

By morning, all of the slaves in the area were in rebellion. It was a total effort. Masters, wives and children were killed and burned in large bonfires. Within a week after its start, former slaves who were destroying everything in their path were advancing and closing in on Cap Francais.

Enclosed in the city, the white authorities were trying to organize forces to counter the rebellion. They sought help from the Spanish in the eastern part of the island, from the English in Jamaica and from the United States. The United States sent munitions, and George Washington wrote "how lamentable it is to see such a spirit of revolution among the negroes."

It seemed there was an interminable supply of slaves who were willing to join the revolution, and they came in waves to replace those that had fallen. A group of white militiamen was defeated in Port-au-Prince by some mulattoes. The whites had hoped the mulattoes would fight alongside them, but the mulattoes were beginning to see that their natural allies were the Blacks and slaves. Still, the mulattoes in the south saw the revolution of the slaves as dangerous for them, and wanted a pact with the whites. They formed a joint militia that had two commanders, one white, the other mulatto. The mulattoes, they pitifully imagined, were finally equal to the whites.

When Boukman was captured both whites and mulattoes rejoiced. But when the whites later turned their cannons against mulatto troops, massacring them without reservation, mulattoes like Alexandre Pétion, who was later to become president of Haiti, took steps toward joining forces with the Blacks and slaves. Likewise, Andre Rigaud, chief of the mulattoes in the south, mobilized mulattoes and free Blacks in the south. Race, not human equality, was revealing itself as THE issue in the Haitian Revolution. It had been the issue before the advent of the French Revolution, and it remained the issue after the French Revolution took center stage in France.

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