Today Haiti is looked at as a struggling island filled with poverty and conflict. It truly gets labeled with the "Third World" stereotype. Actually, the history of Haiti is rich and shows that it was actually the home of some of the greatest heroes in the fight to end western hemisphere slavery. Haiti caused the break up of the worst form of slavery in the history of the world. This island with the largest Black population in the Caribbean has immense economic challenges.
They were caused by design as a form of payback by the Eurocentric powers that be. Haitians put Europe and the 1st World conquerors into an economic tailspin and caused them to reassess their whole strategy for world domination.
There were five principles in the slave trade and the conquest of the western hemisphere. Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands were the monsters that constructed a trail of blood and despair for people of Africa.
While they murdered and forcibly transported millions of Blacks from their land on the African continent, they also performed an organized version of genocide on the indigenous people of the new world. They replaced that potential labor force with the Africans they brought in between the years 1525 – 1862. It was worse than any other horror known to world history.
France laid claim to Haiti, which was known at that time as Saint Domingue. The French were offering aid to the American colonies who were engaged in their fight for independence with the British. One adventure was the lending of Black Haitian slaves in 1779 to fight as a military force against the British in the Savannah, Ga. area. The French, British and American colonists didn't know it but that event would be the catalyst that would eventually change the world.
This adventure taught the Haitian survivors a great lesson: The European military machines are vulnerable and can be defeated with proper planning. When they returned to Haiti, they spread that information amongst the slave populace and the planning began. In 1791, the historical slave revolt in Haiti began. It lasted until 1804.
The first hero in this 13 year struggle was Toussaint L'ouverture. He organized these slaves into a fierce fighting force that surprised the French war machine time and time again. It soon became clear to all of Europe that France was losing this conflict. In 1798, the British sent an expeditionary force to help the French out. They too would face defeat and become embarrassed.
What was even scarier, the Haitian rebels organized an invasion of Santo Domingo in neighboring Dominican Republic and defeated Polish mercenaries and set the slaves free there. Europe saw this as a cancer beginning to spread. They pressured France to get serious about this and end it. Through counter intelligence, General L'ouverture was betrayed and captured by the French. He was sent to a prison in France and never heard from again. However, the organized Haitians didn't miss a beat as Jean Jacques Dessalines became their new revolutionary leader.
Bonaparte Napoleon, Emperor of the French Empire, decided to get serious. He sent a formable force of his best troops and top officers to crush this rising rebellion. To the horror of the whole European military establishment, the French troops were soundly defeated. Forty percent of their best officers were now dead. It was so bad that it threw France into economic turmoil. It would have to rebuild its Army in the middle of a new war with Britain and find the money to supply them.
The troop losses made their possessions less defensible. Plus, the nation was headed to bankruptcy. Thus, Napoleon sold his North American possessions to the new United States in what would become known as the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. This 800,000 square mile addition to the fledging United States changed the power formula in the western hemisphere forever. Finally, in 1804 the French surrendered Haiti and abandoned their western properties with the exception of Martinique and Guadalupe.
The victors of Haiti formally took on its name which is an Arawak Indian (indigenous people) name for the island. It became the first Black republic in the history of the world. It was formally recognized by France in 1834 and by the United States in 1862.
The rebellions caused Britain to give up on the slave trade in 1807 and the rest of Europe started their withdrawal from this evil practice. Many White French settlers left Louisiana and Haiti and moved to what are now Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Many of the free Haitians moved to New Orleans and those ties still exist.
Haiti was the catalyst in the abolishment of slavery. Thank you my brother Haitians.
Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.