Books on Haiti and the
Hubert Cole. Christophe: King of Haiti. New
York: The Viking Press, 1967.
The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
Caribbean Doscourse (2004)
/ Barbara Harlow.
Resistance Literature (1987)
Josaphat B. Kubayanda.
The Poet's Africa: Africanness in the Poetry of Nicolas Guillen and Aime
Myriam J. A.
Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women (1997)
Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman. Open
Gate An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry (2001)
David P. Geggus, ed.
The Impact of the
Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World.
University of South Carolina Press, 2001.
* * * *
Or the Tragedy of Vincent Ogé
Echoes of the Bastille
The Fall of the Bastille on July 14, 1789,
symbolized the destruction of an epoch which went back to the
Middle Ages. It threatened the dogmas which had for so long been
the pillars of an aristocratic society based on privilege and
injustice, and held the promise of a new order of freedom and
The message of revolt was heard by all peoples and races,
and, like the Sermon on the Mount, its appeal was disturbing and
overwhelming. In every corner of the world the oppressed and
enslaved harkened; they pulled and tugged at their chains, not
least in the island of Saint Domingue. Here, where slavery kept
seven hundred thousand [700,000] men and women in wretchedness,
the burning voice of France was to resound with an intensity
greater than anywhere else.
The freed slaves [mainly mulattos, freed at age 24] of the
island were the first to respond to the march of events.
realizing their chance to win the political rights rigidly
denied by the landowners, they met and appointed delegates to
present their claims in Paris. the most remarkable of the three
deputies chosen was Vincent Ogé, a young quadroon from Dondon,
distinguished for his intelligence and audacity.
The outbreak of the revolution had surprised him in Paris,
where his father, a rich landowner, had sent him for his
education. His enthusiasm brought him into touch with the
revolutionary authorities, and he was allowed to plead his cause
before the National Assembly . His sincerity and the
picture he drew of the condition of the freedmen of Saint
Domingue made such a deep impression on the Assembly that the
president declared that "no part of the Nation would plead
in vain for its rights before the representatives of the French
Vincent Ogé Before the National Assembly
Ogé and his colleagues associated themselves
with what was known as the Club des Amis des Noirs, a
Negrophile organization which advocated the ideal of equality.
Established in 1778 by Brissot de Varville, the Society numbered
among its members the principal figures of the Revolution, among
them Mirabeau, the Duke [François De La Rochefoucauld [-Liancourt
(1747-1827), the philanthropist], Lafayetee, the Abbé Grégoire,
Siéyès, Condorcet, Dupont de Nemours, and Vergniaud.
As a result of the Society's representation
the Assembly pronounced decrees recognizing in full the
political rights of the freed men of Saint Domingue, and
granting them the same status as that enjoyed by the white men.
During a stormy session the question was
debated whether or not this privilege should be extended to all
the Negroes in the island. Barnaves, a Girondian who represented
the interests of the great landowners of Saint Domingue,
protested strongly against this suggestion. He declared that the
Assembly should intervene only at the instance of the respective
colonial assemblies, and that to decide in favour of the slaves
would not only be premature, but would lead to an outbreak of
disorder which would end in France losing her fairest colony.
The answer to Barnave came from Maximilien
Robespierre, who, after a violent tirade against slave-drivers
and tyrants, ended his speech with the following words: "If
the Assembly decides in favour of this view, it will be
announcing its own dishonour, let the colonies perish if we are
to sacrifice our freedom and our glory in order to preserve
them!" His words fired Adrien du Port, who leapt to his
feet with the famous maxim: "Perish the colonies, rather
than a principle!"
Barnave's motion was defeated, but the
Assembly took no decision on the slaves. meanwhile, the two
decrees affecting freed men were sent to saint Domingue, but the
Governor, M. de Peynier, being completely under the thumb of the
great planters who formed the assemblies of saint Marc and Cap
Français, was unable to enforce them. Before we trace the
events that began with the landowners' resistance to the
decrees, we must, however, look at the situation in the Colony
A Social Overview of Saint Domingue
At that time Saint Domingue was a huge
melting-pot in which a score of heterogeneous groups and
violently conflicting interests boiled and bubbled. On the one
hand were the great planters [grand blancs], determined
to go to any lengths to preserve their privileges, even if it
meant breaking off relations with France. Then there were the
less important white men [petit blancs]--craftsmen,
artisans, overseers, and the like--who regarded themselves as
having as great a claim to the spoils of the Colony as the
planters, whom they were ready to supplant if the opportunity
arose, though violently opposing any improvement in the status
of the freed men.
These last, in turn, were firmly resolved to
seize the political rights which were their due, but they were
not in the least interested in the fate of the slaves. Finally,
there were the slaves themselves, whose aim, though still
inarticulate, was to put an end tot heir torments by fire and
From their point of view the wealthy
landowners had good cause to heap curses on this precious French
Revolution. The Colony was the greatest supplier in the world of
sugar, coffee, cocoa, cotton, precious woods, and spices; in
1789 its prosperity was almost fabulous. The island ports had
been visited by vessels from every part of the world, and the
turnover amounted to two-thirds of France's overseas trade.
The leisurely, comfortable way of life of the
eighteenth century, so frequently celebrated and lamented,
reached its apogee in Saint Domingue. Life possessed an
unimaginable splendour in which all that Nature and man could
contrive to delight the senses was entirely at the disposal of
the great planters. As they indulged in all the excesses of
unbridled luxury, their moral sense was completely perverted.
particular, the Marquis of Caradeux, the Count of La
Toison-Laboule, and the Viscount of Flonc carried human
wickedness to its uttermost limits. On the slightest pretetxt
Negroes would be thrown alive in a standing position, with their
heads above the ground, which would then be smeared with
syrup to whet the appetites of the ants, so that the wretched
victims were glad to be stoned to death by their own
was the "four-stake death," from which not even
pregnant Negresses were exempt. Each of the four limbs was
lashed to a post while the victim was flogged to death. Many
slaves were hung up by the ribs and left to die, such cruelties
being daily occurrences.
The less important
whites [petit blancs], envious of the wealth and grand
airs of the great landowners, were only too eager to ill treat
and exploit the mulattoes and Negroes. Not all of them were
French; many were Italians, Greeks, Portuguese, and Spaniards,
mostly escaped gallows-birds. The presence of these men
constituted a constant threat of anarchy and disorder in the
The mulattoes or half castes, born of
the union of white men and "lascivious Negresses" (to
use Father Labat's phrase), formed a group apart. Some were well
educated and possessed lands and slaves; but this did not
protect them from the universal scorn and contempt of the white
men. Excluded from all public functions, and obliged to bear the
insults and outrages of a society largely based on racial
discrimination, the mulattoes hated all whites, not excepting
their own fathers.
In the streets they were
forced to make way for the humblest white man; at the theatre
and in church they had to site apart. They in turn spurned any
association with the Negroes, upon whom they looked down from
the ethical height of their yellow complexions. Nor did their
race prejudice stop at this, for they even subdivided themselves
into as many as twelve categories according to the mixture of
their blood--fair, dark, albino, and so forth.
the whole society rested on the oppressed Negroes. Ill fed, they
toiled in the factories or on the land, and were subject to all
manner of physical and moral degradation.
Domingue was thus a mosaic of races, a society sated with
wealth, vice, suffering, vanity, misery, and indulgence--a
melting pot of contrasts in which various irreconcilable forces
were bound in the end to flare up into a vast conflagration,
even without the spark of the year 1789 to set it off.
Ogé Returns to Saint Domingue
It was to
this state of affairs that Vincent Ogé, the ardent delegate of
the freed men to the national Assembly, now returned from
France. he arrived on the night of October 21, 1790, on board a
ship flying the American the American flag which sailed into the
diminutive bay of Petite Anse. Two days later he presented
himself before the Colonial Assembly of Cap Français. With the
vehemence of the age he appealed to the "sensibility"
of the great landowners and to their respect for "immortal
principles," and besought them to give effect to the two
decrees of March 8 and March 28, whereby the National Assembly
granted full civic status to the mulattoes.
members of the Colonial Assembly replied that in no
circumstances would they grant within the Colony full civil and
political equality to the descendants of the Negro race. Ogé
pleaded with them, now beseeching, now threatening, but his
words were greeted with derision. Nothing daunted, he told his
hearers that the revolution had raised up a new spirit in France
and that the revolution had raised up a new spirit in France and
that this opposition to the National Assembly's orders was sheer
rebellion, for which they would have to pay dearly. The
landowners, exasperated by this impertinence, authorized their
President, Archbishop Thibaud, to have the delegate expelled
from the building.
Angered by this rebuff, the
freed men decided to take up arms. At a meeting held in Limonade
to work out a plan of action Ogé insisted on exclusion of the
slaves from the freed men's ranks, but Jean Baptiste Chavannes,
either more generous or more farsighted, objected to this,
maintaining that there was a natural solidarity between the
freed men and the slaves, the result of their common blood and
suffering. He declared also that the whole cause of freedom
depended on the support of the Negroes.
was unable to see this, and Chavannes, suspecting that his
friend had been won over by the slave-owners, turned on him
violently: "Do you secretly cherish the terrible project of
separating our cause from that of our original stock?"
"I do but obey," replied Ogé, "the decrees of
the National Assembly, which refer only to freed men."
Ogé's rising was disastrous. At the head of a contingent of two
hundred young coloured men he appeared before the colonial
authorities and summarily ordered them to promulgate forthwith
the decrees of the Convention which recognized their civil and
political rights. But in his ultimatum he particularly
emphasized his attitude to the Negroes: "I shall, however,
do nothing to stir up the slaves: such a course of action would
be unworthy of me."
Assembly's reply was to attack the rebels with the National
Guard of Cap Français and with a contingent of irregular
soldiers. The Assembly mustered eight hundred men in all, and
the insurgents, after holding out a few days, were overthrown at
La Tannerie, near Cap Français. The survivors of the rebel
army, among them Ogé and Chavannes, fled tot he Spanish part of
the island, but were handed over to the Colonial Assembly by Don
Joaquín García, the Governor of Santo Domingo.
tribunal composed of landowners then judged and sentenced the
captives: Ogé, Chavannes, and six others were to die on
the wheel; nineteen of their comrades were sent to the galleys
for life, and twenty-two more were hanged.
full state the members of the colonial assembly met to see their
sentence carried out on Ogé and Chavannes. this was done in the
Place d' Armes on February 25, 1791. Ogé was unable to resist
the terrible torture, and the pain maddened him. he screamed,
wept, and besought their mercy, but Chavannes, scornfully stoic,
did not utter a word of complaint as the wheel crushed his bones
one by one.
The Tragic Dilemma of
This episode reveals the
moral content of the drama in which the mulattoes of Saint
Domingue were the victims. Two bloods and two heredities waged
perpetual warfare within their nature. Despite the contempt with
which he was regarded by the white man, the mulatto felt a
stronger attraction to that side of his nature that he did to
his degraded, unhappy, and illiterate Negro brother.
a colonial society, based on slavery and discrimination
according to the colour of a man's skin, the mulatto was
socially the Negro's superior, and it was therefore reasonable
that he should have nothing to do with him. Custom had
eventually become an unwritten law, so that all mulattoes, at
the age of twenty-four were automatically set free. In 1674 the
King had decreed that "all the children of slaves are
This instruction, however,
never became operative, and the mulatto continued to enjoy the
privilege conferred on him by reason of his percentage of white
blood, so that few of his number ever became slaves. The usual
practice was for the landowner to see that his illegitimate son
was educated, grant him his protection, set him up in life, and
give him land and slaves. There was thus created in the island a
kind of middle class, which ranked half-way between the masters
and the slaves.
Every age produces its own
ethical code, and it is therefore necessary, if we are to
understand the psychology of the freed man, l'affranchi,
who disassociated his own cause from that of the Negro masses,
to understand the mentality and the social atmosphere of the
period. The dogma which held sway in Saint Domingue was that
anything that linked with Africa by the slightest drop of blood
was abject and degrading, and branded with an inferiority of
which it could never be rid. From this belief arose the
mulatto's tendency to shake off the race to which a detestable
fate had bound him.
His black blood was a
cause of unending personal suffering to him, and he would do
almost anything to overcome the colour bar. All freed men,
whether Negro or mulatto, had special seats set aside for them
at the theatre and in church, but the mulattos would
"haughtily refused to have anything to do with the
were, moreover, strictly material considerations which
influenced Ogé and his followers in their decisions to have
nothing to do with the slaves when presenting their claims. The
freed men owned nearly a third [1/3]of all the slaves in the
colony; to set them free would have meant financial disaster.
Moreover, a political factor militated against a union of the
mulattoes and the Negroes, for the revolutionary Government was
not yet prepared to include Negroes in the affranchisement it
advocated for everyone dwelling on French soil.
In his famous message to the Mulattoes of
Saint Domingue, the Abbé Gregoire, a famous opponent of
slavery, wrote: "The Assembly has not yet
associated the Negroes with yourselves because suddenly
to grant full civil rights to persons who are not
acquainted with the duties of a citizen might merely
lead them to disaster. But do not forget that, like
yourselves, they are born free and remain free as all
men do. It is you who are accused, even more than the
white men, of cruelty to the Negroes."
For the mulatto to be cured of his foolish outlook, and
to be forced eventually to unite with the Negro, he had
to suffer repeated setbacks in isolated attempts to win
his natural rights.
He had first to learn the lesson of the lash in
order to realize the white man's unwavering scorn of him. Only
then did the mulatto lose his illusions and understand that it
was his Negro half-brother who had the more abiding affection
for him, and that destiny had cast them in the same mould, so
that they might face their common executioners and either
conquer or perish side by side.
Source: Stephen Alexis. Black Liberator: The Life of
Toussaint L' Ouverture. London: Ernest Benn, 1949.
* * * * *
Noam Chomsky: US role in Haiti
Ezili Danto live in Miami
* * * * *
Haiti: Coping with the aftermath /
Haiti's Enduring Creativity (video) /
Haiti Earthquake: The
Hidden Holocaust (video)
* * * * *
* * * * *
People of Color in Louisiana, Part I. The Journal of Negro
History VOL. I., No. 4 October, 1916
The title of a possible discussion
of the Negro in Louisiana presents difficulties, for there is no such
word as Negro permissible in speaking of this State. The history of the
State is filled with attempts to define, sometimes at the point of the
sword, oftenest in civil or criminal courts, the meaning of the word
Negro. By common consent, it came to mean in Louisiana, prior to 1865,
slave, and after the war, those whose complexions were noticeably dark.
As Grace King so delightfully puts it, "The pure-blooded African was
never called colored, but always Negro." The gens de couleur, colored
people, were always a class apart, separated from and superior to the
Negroes, ennobled were it only by one drop of white blood in their
veins. The caste seems to have existed from the first introduction of
slaves. To the whites, all Africans who were not of pure blood were gens
de couleur. Among themselves, however, there were jealous and
fiercely-guarded distinctions: "griffes, briqués, mulattoes, quadroons,
octoroons, each term meaning one degree's further transfiguration toward
the Caucasian standard of physical perfection."1
1. King, "New Orleans, the Place and
the People during the Ancien Regime," 333.
* * * * *
The Haitian Revolution, 1791 to 1804: Or, Side Lights On the
By Theophilus Gould
This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. This
book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or
blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were
either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the
scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important,
and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back
into print as part of our continuing commitment to the
preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your
understanding of the imperfections
the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable
The Haitian Revolution, 1791 to 1804. By T. G. Steward. Thomas Y.
Crowell Company, New York, 1915. 292 pages. $1.25.
Reviewed by J.R. Fauset. The Journal of Negro
History. Vol. I., No. 1,
In the days when the internal
dissensions of Haiti are again thrusting her into the limelight such a book
as this of Mr. Steward assumes a peculiar importance. It combines the
unusual advantage of being both very readable and at the same time
historically dependable. At the outset the author gives a brief sketch of
the early settlement of Haiti, followed by a short account of her
development along commercial and racial lines up to the Revolution of 1791.
The story of this upheaval, of course, forms the basis of the book and is
indissolubly connected with the story of Toussaint L'Overture. To most
Americans this hero is known only as the subject of Wendell Phillips's
stirring eulogy. As delineated by Mr. Steward, he becomes a more human
creature, who performs exploits, that are nothing short of marvelous. Other
men who have seemed to many of us merely names—Rigaud,
Le Clerc, Desalines, and the like--are also fully discussed.
Although most of the book is naturally
concerned with the revolutionary period, the author brings his account up to
date by giving a very brief resumé of the history of Haiti from 1804 to the
present time. This history is marked by the frequent occurrence of
assassinations and revolutions, but the reader will not allow himself to be
affected by disgust or prejudice at these facts particularly when he is
reminded, as Mr. Steward says, "that the political history of Haiti does not
differ greatly from that of the majority of South American Republics, nor
does it differ widely even from that of France."
The book lacks a topical index,
somewhat to its own disadvantage, but it contains a map of Haiti, a rather
confusing appendix, a list of the Presidents of Haiti from 1804 to 1906 and
a list of the names and works of the more noted Haitian authors. The author
does not give a complete bibliography. He simply mentions in the beginning
the names of a few authorities consulted.—J. R. Fauset.
* * *
Mockingbirds at Jerusalem
* * *
Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered
the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It
By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign. The Economy
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
update 6 May 2010