The Haitian Revolution – Review
The Haitian Revolution – AKA: The Black Revolution: Toussaint Louverture Part 1 of 5
The African experience in the Caribbean is essential to our understanding of the history of Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In most respects, the events that transpired in the Caribbean greatly overshadow those in North America; in fact, they are often the motive for what happened in the “New World.” Therefore, the contest between European financial interests, their wars, social and political transformations, their armed conflicts in North America, the Caribbean, mainland Europe, and the surrounding seas set the stage(s) upon which the captive peoples began their varied responses.
The variety of African responses to capture and enslavement were as myriad as the slave environment frameworks. In some evolved trans-located culture and religion. In others, expression could come only through steel-drums. Some moved little, others evolved into resistance and armed struggle. All were circumscribed by and evolved through the structures (political, economic, social, religious, cultural, linguistic, etc.) as they constantly evolved to either challenge or outlast the forces of enslavement. The facts of the African People in North America and the Caribbean today make clear their degrees of success at both challenging and outlasting the initial phases of trans-location.
The PBS DVD presents an overview of one such case study. Its primary focus is the significant personage of Toussaint Loverture; therefore it does not bring the viewer into an understanding of today. For that reason, there is a recommended reading list.
This DVD fills a gap in standard curriculum regarding Haiti in general, and General Loverture in particular. (The same is true about his counterpart African leader, General Alex Dumas, in revolutionary France. See list.) It helps the viewer grasp the scope of change made – which exceeded that in the US – and the disadvantage of those who accomplished it. It helps us understand that GEN Loverture had successfully played the Spanish against the French, the French liberals against the French planters, the mulattoes with him against the British, and successfully built the first free society in the New World. It helps us understand that the government of France changed principles repeatedly and often – to its own perceived advantages – and GEN Loverture stayed on point.
We finally see that the General had to contend with France’s Napoleon (as did GEN Dumas). In him he faced a man duplicitous, without written principle, who believed in guile before force. His intention was the re-imposition of slavery in the “Spice Islands” to again enrich post-revolutionary France. This provided the fundamental contradiction that would lead to military engagement.
This production cannot, and does not impart the amount of intrigue, heroism, outrage, triumph, determination, sacrifice, horror, and nobility that was the result of the rebellion and the effort to stay free.
This DVD gives a good introductory sketch regarding one case study of the many “responses” by African peoples to their enslavement in the New World.
Haitian Revolution Topics:
Major actors: Toussaint Loverture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, Sottonax, Napoleon Bonaparte
- Value and severity of French slave-island colonies vs. North America and Canada
- Migration of the US Revolution to the French Revolution to the Haitian Revolution.
- The political and historical role of the French planters and the Mulatto social groups
- The 12-year African rebellion, wars, and the most “profound revolution”
- Emancipation and Military Re-imposition of Slavery in the French Colonies
- The second long fight for freedom, and its success.
“He Saw Possibilities where other people didn’t.”
This DVD is a good introduction; however it cannot and did not cover all of the major events, intrigues, and broad scope in the time allotted.
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