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

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #8: Rehearsing Black Power [ Audio Version]

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


(1) Why were Black People able to resist white power better than most Native Americans?
(2) What was the commercial strategy of San Domingo's merchants in the early 1700s?
(3) How did the slaves in San Domingo tend to react to slavery?
(4) What did Enriquillo and Mackandal attempt to do? Did either of them succeed?
(5) What is meant when one speaks of "rehearsing Black Power"?

Class #8 Essay

In 1522 the first African slave rebellion took place in the so called new world. It was led by Enriquillo and was so successful that the king of Spain had no option but to give Enriquillo and all of the Blacks and Caribs who fought with him all of the rights that were due any Spaniard. Enriquillo's rebellion made it clear that the Africans that were brought as slaves didn't accept being dominated as easily as the Caribs did. By resisting, they not only empowered themselves, they empowered the Caribs as well. This enabled the Blacks to battle successfully against white power, and their willingness to fight back using whatever means necessary is what eventually converted the Caribbean into a dangerous spot for the white invaders and white power in general.

Spain had committed its resources to exploiting other parts of the Caribbean, South and Central America that promised more immediate riches, and was forced to abandon San Domingo as a result. The French took control of the area, called the colony Saint Domingue and, before long, had converted it into the most valuable and richest colony in the world. By the mid 1740s and early 1750s, the commercial strategy of San Domingo's merchants had become crystal clear: to produce as much sugar, rum, coffee and other goods as possible, and sell as much of them as possible to the 13 colonies in North America that would become known as the United States of America.

But there were telltale signs that there were a lot of Enriquillos among the Blacks in San Domingo. There was a major slave rebellion in Haiti in 1724, another in 1730, and others still in 1734 and 1740. Added to this were the constant rebellious activities of the marronage, maroon slaves who had run away from the plantations and established their own governments in the mountains and swamps. By 1750, there were more than 3000 maroons in San Domingo. Usually they formed separate bands, but occasionally a strong leader would come along who could unite all of them. The greatest of these maroon leaders appeared in the 1750s and went by the name of Mackandal.

Mackandal decided he would unite all of the Blacks and drive the whites out of San Domingo. Mackandal and members of his band went from plantation to plantation, organizing a rebellion of slaves throughout the island. To make it harder for the whites to put up resistance, Mackandal had prepared a poisonous herb that was to be given to whites in their water and refreshments at the appropriate time. In spite of having lost one hand due to an accident, Mackandal was fearless. He went to a plantation one night to recruit, got drunk and was either betrayed or bragged aloud about his plans. Whichever the case, he was taken prisoner and burned alive that same night.

In the absence of one betrayal or one night of drunkenness, the Blacks in Haiti might have gained their independence before the whites in the 13 colonies to the north. But Mackandal did get betrayed, drink too much or talk too much, and the French got a temporary reprieve from the ultimate challenge to their authority. Mackandal was dead, but his plans were alive and kicking; among some free Blacks, some slaves and nearly every maroon community. Though appearances gave a different impression to some observers, Black Power in San Domingo was simply biding its time.

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