Thu, 28 Mar 2024 Feature Article

What the Haitian Revolution Means to Black People

What the Haitian Revolution Means to Black People

The American, French, and Russian Revolutions sent shockwaves through the global system of nations and served as catalysts for economic and political changes that have persisted into the modern era. All three of these revolutions drove nails into the coffins of absolutist monarchies and totalitarian spiritual tyrannies thereby ushering in an era where the rights of the masses were championed. The histories of these revolutions however reveal that none of them were inaugurated to raise the status of people of African ancestry beyond the accepted hewers of wood and drawers of water.

All three revolutions advocated for the extension of freedom, equality, and fraternity beyond the narrow confines of the elites. The American patriots of the revolutionary war envisaged a nation in which all men were deemed to be equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. Enslaved Africans unfortunately did not qualify fully as men or as citizens and therefore were excluded from the vaunted equality and inalienable rights.

The French Revolutionaries saw the contradictions inherent in slavery and the high ideals of their revolution. The revolutionary government of France therefore outlawed slavery in its colonies in 1794. Slavery would witness a comeback after Napoleon seized power and restored the church and some of the other institutions abolished by the Revolution. By 1814 the monarchy was restored and France continued its maltreatment of people of African ancestry as though the Revolution had never occurred.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 attempted to liberate the masses as power was wrested for the bourgeoisie class. Russia, like China, had not been involved in the slave trade and the scramble for Africa. As the Russian Revolution consolidated its position in Russia and later in the Soviet Union, mercenaries and advisors would be sent to Africa and the Caribbean to help the Black proletariat in their struggles against the capitalist Western imperial powers. Unfortunately, it was not clear sailing for African students studying in Russia as the protest march by Ghanaian students in Moscow in 1963 proved.

The Haitian Revolution, unlike the American, French, and Russian revolutions, was Black to its core. Enslaved Africans in St Domingue, encouraged by the cry of liberty, equality and fraternity in France, took to arms against the most powerful military in Europe at the time. The seemingly unstoppable armies of Napoleon met a Caribbean Waterloo in the island of St Domingue. Haiti proved to be a graveyard for the twenty-three thousand crack troops deployed to Haiti to put down the rebellion and to restore slavery and the plantation system.

Unencumbered by the spiritual and ideological chains imprisoning other enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and the Americas, brave African warriors in Haiti matched wit, steel, and bullet against the best military machinery that Europe had to offer. As indicated in the prayer of Dutty Boukman on the eve of the Haitian Revolution, the Black revolutionaries did not believe in the deity of their oppressors. Boukman and his fellow Black revolutionaries saw the deity of Europeans as pathological and criminal. The deity of the Black revolutionaries was a good deity who demanded revenge for wrongs done to the Black masses of Haiti.

This was perhaps the most powerful liberating weapon in the arsenal of the Haitian revolutionaries. They carried with them into battle an image of a deity in their own likeness, who was fighting on their side to defeat a fiendish and inhuman race of Caucasian devils in human flesh. According to the Haitian religious worldview, Caucasians were not a race who resembled most perfectly the god image. As such therefore, no psychological firewalls existed in the minds of Haitians that prevented them from making mincemeat of Leclerc and his twenty-three thousand invading French troops.

The Haitian Revolution proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that a right thinking, well-armed, highly motivated Black army could take on the best that Europe or America had to offer. Not only did the Haitian revolutionaries beat the almost unstoppable army of Napoleon, but for an encore, the Haitians also defeated the opportunistic British and Spanish who attempted to gain control of the island in the midst of the revolutionary storm.

Haitian revolutionaries provided inspiration for numerous slave revolts and many of the independence wars that would be fought on the African continent more than a century later. The revolutionary Haitian government also passed legislation granting freedom and citizenship to any Blacks in the Diaspora who escaped enslavement and landed in Haiti. Haiti therefore became a haven and a beacon for Black people in the Diaspora who wanted to drink deeply from the cup of freedom.

The misery that the Haitian people have been forced to endure over the centuries since the Revolution should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the evil machinations of Caucasian hegemony. The Haitian nation has been punished in every conceivable way to serve as a deterrent to other would be Black revolutionary nations. The same playbook that was used against Zimbabwe and Libya in recent times was implemented against Haiti.

To this day Haiti is still considered to be a pariah nation even among Black states in the Diaspora. Many Black Christians, having imbibed the same anti-Black spiritual sentiments vomited out of the mouths of their Caucasian spiritual overlords, are as dismissive and calumnious of the Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions that are central to the lives of the people of Haiti.

In all fairness it should be stated that the late Pat Roberson was very correct when he intimated that the Haitian people made a deal with the Devil. Ironically the Devil was none other than Charles X of France who signed off on the 150 million francs that was extorted from the Haitian nation. The curse of Haitian underdevelopment could be lifted rapidly if the French and the Americans would grow a conscience and repay that sum along with all the interests that would have accrued since 1824.

Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the Founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center and the author of Oreos, Coconuts, and Negropeans: Rediscovering Our African Identity.