How Haiti Shaped the United States (and not the other way around)

This is an important read from an important historian, Annette Gordon-Reed. Click the link for the full piece.

“In 1791 the enslaved people of Haiti, then known as St. Domingue, engineered the first and only successful slave revolt in modern history. St. Domingue was France’s richest colony, made so by the worldwide demand for sugar and the slavery-based economy that fulfilled it. Led by Toussaint Louverture, Africans on the island violently threw off their enslavers, whose countrymen themselves had only recently overthrown a monarchy that had oppressed people for generations. For reasons both strategic and principled, in early 1794, the French government accepted the declaration of the end of slavery in St. Domingue made by the rebels in August of 1793. Some in France saw abolition as in keeping with their own revolutionary ideals.

This period is popularly known as the “Age of Revolution.” First came the Americans, aided by the French, in 1776. The French followed with the fall of the Bastille in 1789. Thomas Jefferson, an ardent supporter of the French Revolution and still under its spell, wrote to his daughter Martha in 1793 as if the events in St. Domingue were part of an unstoppable wave sweeping the globe. “St. Domingo has expelled all its whites, has given freedom to all its blacks, has established a regular government of the blacks and colored people, and seems now to have taken its ultimate form, and that to which all of the West India islands must come.”

Also: “Instead of welcoming and supporting the fledgling republic, the United States refused to recognize Haiti until 1862, after the Southern states seceded from the Union. Despite this formal recognition, after the assassination of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam in 1915, the United States occupied the island until 1934″.

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