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

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #16: Independence [ Audio Version]

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

(1) What happened when word got out that Toussaint L'Ouverture had been imprisoned?
(2) Why might Jean Jacques Dessalines have been called a "one sided genius"?
(3) Why would Toussaint have been a more effective leader of an independent Haiti than his contemporaries like Jean Jacque Dessalines?
(4) Do you think the men who emerged as Haiti's leaders immediately after independence did what they thought was best for Haiti's people?

Class #16 Essay

When word got out that Toussaint had been arrested, Jean Jacques Dessalines led the masses of Blacks as they took up arms again and declared San Domingo's independence. Dessalines killed all of the whites he could capture and renamed the country Haiti (Ayiti). It did not take the white countries long to realize that the San Domingo masses were just as revolutionary without Toussaint as with him. And, just as Toussaint had anticipated, the white countries quickly initiated economic and military embargoes against the new, Black country that isolated it and kept it from operating as normal countries operate. In so doing, white power countries began to push Haiti toward what it has become today; an artificially impoverished country ruthlessly ruled by ignorant dictators and outlaw domestic armies. The white countries did not allow Haiti to become a normal nation; in fact they pushed Haiti toward barbarism. Haiti had become what Toussaint had wanted so desperately to avoid.

Haiti had become what Toussaint might have kept it from becoming if he had not been caught up in his need for white cooperation so much. Toussaint could have put Haiti on a kinder path by declaring independence and blazing a unique trail for his people. Instead, that job was left up to Jean Jacque Dessalines, a man who was only capable of completing the military half of the task.

CLR James has called Jean Jacque Dessalines a "one sided genius." Dessalines had most of the qualities it takes to lead an army, but few of the ones it takes to consolidate and lead a nation of people scarred by slavery and color complexes. In that regard, he was like most of his contemporaries in Ayiti. Several of them could have taken the lead in the military phase of Haiti's liberation, but none of them had the qualities it takes to lead civilians, particularly when faced with the economic and political barriers generated by the white power countries that were intent on destroying the new Black nation. Whereas Toussaint had planned for the socialistic development of his country long before socialism was a popular term, Dessalines and his successors were only prepared to function within the restraints of the economic realities created by white power. Whereas Toussaint longed for the freedom of Africa long before Pan-Africanism was even envisioned, Dessalines and his like could only long for the power, money and lack of restraint that had always been restricted to white masters. Whereas Toussaint had the vision of a person who lives in the present and the future, Dessalines and his like could only relate to what was right in front of them and behind them. What they had witnessed as individuals growing up in slave and pirate environments served as their models and dictated how they were prone to think, what they were prone to do. It is probable that each of them did their best, but their best was much less than what was needed to keep Haiti from becoming a political, economic and social cesspool.

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