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

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #9: A Dangerous Mix For White Power [ Audio Version]

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

(1) Were all white countries in the Caribbean using Black labor in the same way?
(2) What was particularly dangerous about the ways the English and French made use of Black labor?
(3) How many slaves were there in San Domingo in the early 1700s?
(4) Did the presence of rich mulattoes improve the situation of the Blacks and slaves any?

Class #9 Essay

In 1601 Spain was so weak in the Caribbean that it abandoned San Domingo because it couldn't keep France and Holland from operating on the island. Commercially speaking, Spain had been a backward country when the Americas were "discovered," and Spain would continue being a backward country. More than anything else, this explains why Spain was to lose many of its Caribbean possessions to other European countries. Sweden, Denmark and Holland were actively exploiting the Caribbean, but they were countries with a reasonable bourgeoisie (middle class). They realized early that business was best when it avoided as much trouble as possible. With that guiding principle, Denmark abolished slavery in 1792, and the colonies of Sweden and Holland began to invest in fewer and fewer commercial activities that required slave labor.

England also was a bourgeoisie country, but its bourgeoisie was unenlightened inasfar as labor relations were concerned. English businessmen insisted that profits were sufficient reason to subject people to misery and suffering, and one drop of Black blood made one an inferior being. Not surprisingly, the slave revolts in the English colonies were the most numerous of all. But fate, the spread of the white myth and mental cruelty kept several of the revolts from having the catastrophic consequences they should have had.

The situation in the French colonies relied on a more delicate balance. There were different levels of whites, and different levels of Blacks. At the top were the grand whites, members of a rich colonial oligarchy. They lived luxuriously, enjoyed an active social life and travelled to France often. Then there were the little whites, who were tied to the big whites by color but not necessarily tied to them politically. Following the little whites were the mulattoes, who were sometimes richer and more cultured than the little whites. In the early days, in order to bind them to the whites instead of the Blacks, mulattoes were born free. At that time, prejudice against mulattoes was not always as intense as it could have been, so they prospered to the point where they owned one third of the wealth and one fourth of the slaves in San Domingo. They were refined, highly educated and travelled to France frequently, where they had many friends. Later, mulattoes were frustrated by the system because, as soon as the white population was numerous, restrictions based on color became more pronounced. Thus, the color of the mulattoes made it impossible for them to penetrate the racist social barriers to the extent they wanted to.

And at the bottom were the slaves. In the early 1700s, there were 400,000 slaves in San Domingo, and more were arriving constantly due to production demands. The slaves lived a life of hell, and neither the big whites, little whites or mulattoes cared about their welfare. Neither of the propertied classes ever thought in terms of abolishing slavery, not even the mulattoes. To them, the struggle for power was between the big whites, little whites and mulattoes. That struggle around money, politics and status made alliances possible that produced a dangerous mix for white power in San Domingo.

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