Chronicle of Slave Revolutions in the Americas

History of Slave revolt in the Americas

All societies practicing slavery will have to deal with slave revolts because there is that desire for Freedom in any human being. One can express it in their songs or their story-telling nights. It becomes part of their culture and an art in knowing how to implant it on others with the same background.

History is full of examples of such revolts. When a Roman slave named Spartacus (73-71 BC) rose against abuses committed by the Roman Empire or a Scandinavian Slave Tunni, in the 9th century, revolted against the Swedish Monarchy, you can also understand well how the slaves of Santo Domingo, Bookman, Dessalines and others may have felt in the 18th century (1791) against the French Imperialism of Napoleon Bonaparte. The French revolution indeed bought to us the words of Liberty and Equality for all.

Muhammed led the east African slaves in the Zani Rebellion in Iraq to revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate. Nanny of the Maroons revolted against the British in Jamaica. In continental United States, Denmark Vesey rebelled in South Carolina.

Ancient Sparta had serfs called helots who rebelled against the Spartans as reported by Herodotus. English peasants revolted in 1381 to obtain reform in the feudalism system in England and increase the right of the serfs and Richard II agreed to their requests. In Russia, the slaves were called Kholops and slavery remained an institution until 1723 when Peter the Great converted the slaves into serfs. They became outlaws called “Cossacks” living in the southern steppes. Numerous rebellions and Cossacks uprisings with Ivan Bolotnikov (1606), Stenka Razin (1667), Kondraty Butavin (1707) are some of the many hundred outbreaks across Russia.

Numerous African slave revolts took place in America during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. More than 250 uprising have been documented. Slaves like Gabriel Prosser (Richmond, VA 1800), Denmark Vesey (Charleston SC 1822) Nat Turner (South Hampton County VA 1831) merit their named to be mentioned and this is the story of the most striking revolts that I want to bring to light.

I have taken solemnly that task to bring to light the most distinctive slave revolutions in the Americas and chose to review some of the most epic African slave revolts which have marked forever the new world in this “Chronicle of African Slave revolts in the Americas”. I am sure you will find time to appreciate what our ancestors have done to make Haiti a free Nation for the Haitians.

This month, we will talk about the 1781-1804, the Haitian slave revolution and the only successful slave revolution in the Caribbean.

Haitian Slave Revolution in the Caribbean (1791-1804)

The Haitian Revolution was the first slave revolution with a successful outcome, leading Haiti as a free black republic and paving the way for the emancipation of the slaves in the French territories and in the world. The movement may have started in the mid-18th century but this is in 1791 that workers on plantations in Haiti (Santo Domingo) overwhelmed their owners to take control of the island. They achieved emancipation in 1794 and successfully affronted the army of Napoleon years later to become an independent nation. The old French colony became the nation of Haiti, land of the braves for the free slaves and the free persons of color.

The end of the French rule and the abolition of slavery was a menace for European and British/American interests in the hemisphere because the Caribbean economic development was contingent upon European’s demand for sugar cane, coffee, cocoa, indigo production. Although white colonists and black slaves come often to violent conflicts, Saint Domingue was a society seething with hatred. The “little colons” were jealous of the rich colons and land owners, the mulattoes wanted to better their rights and the slaves could not stand anymore all the abuses in the colony. Runaway slaves, “Maroons” were living on the margins of the larges plantations or far in the mountains so they can attack at will and steal from their old masters through violent raids.

Among the whites also, they have different classes: the rich whites were the colonists owning lands while looking down at the little whites born in the colony or working for them. Other classes did not like each other as well, the mulattoes, other creoles, and the slaves. All bring a diversity in the colony while the maroons are kept at large, away from the in house-slaves or the field-slaves which were also mistreated. Brief, a society with hatred, prone to violent conflicts.

The first effective maroon chief was a charismatic Voodoo priest, Francois Mackandal which was able to establish a network of maroons to plan meeting leading to a rebellion which lasted from 1751 to 1758. He was captured in 1758 and burned in public. At his death, many other maroons continued the fight. The largest plantations were in the north of the island and the slaves were to a ratio 10:1 with a higher rate of mortality. They kept their African culture often from Yoruba, Nigeria which become the Benin of our modern days and married among them. Their kids born in the colony, were called “creoles” and the kids born from the union of a white colon and a slave were called “mulattoes”. The colons tried to separate those different entities but most slaves talked “patois or creole” language and kept bounding. The slaves also developed their own religion with a mixture between the imposed Catholicism and their west African Voodoo.

Not too many knew of the existence of a slave named Padre Jean (Padrejean) in 1676 who attempted to overthrow his slave master in the goal of fermenting a revolt in the town of Port-de-Paix. After freeing the slaves, Padre Jean fled to Tortuga Island (Ile de la Tortue) where he lived until 1679 when the French discovered his retreat and hired some maroons to hunt him down and kill him.

We cannot talk about revolt without mentioning Dutty Bookman. Bookman was born originally in “Senegambia”, presently Senegal and Gambia where he was captured and sold as a slave to a habitation in Jamaica. He soon became a maroon and took refuge in Haiti. Many believe that he was given the name holly man (Book Man = man of the book) because he thought others how to read the Quran as a Muslim cleric while he was a coach driver.  Others believe that he became also a Voodoo priest (Hougan). Recent researches have shown him along with Cecile Fatiman (Voodoo Mambo). They both become leaders of the maroons allowing them to preside in a Voodoo ceremony at Bois Caiman on the 14th of August 1791, in the north of the country.

That ceremony may have served as a catalyst to the slave revolt. During that ceremony, both prophesied that Jean Francois, Biassou and Jeannot would become the leaders of the revolt. An animal was sacrificed and an oath was taken while the priest and the priestess encouraged the listeners to take revenge against their French oppressors. Many Christian organizations saw in this ceremony a “pact with the devil”. It appears that the blood of an animal was offered to the attendees for consummation, sealing their fate. A week later, 1800 plantations were destroyed and 1000 slaveholders killed. Bookman was quickly captured and beheaded by the French planters on the 7th of November 1791.

George Biassou also called later Jorge Biassou, a son of slaves, was 50 when he joined the rebels and assumed the leadership of the revolutionary movement with Jean Francois and Jeannot, commanding 40,000 ex-slaves to start burning plantations and killing white colonists. The historian Thomas Madiou in his writings states that Biassou tent was filled with dead men’ bones, kittens, snakes and other African “fetishes”. Biassou tried to write many proposals with the help of Jean Francois to end the revolt in exchange for freedom to all slaves in the colony but France refused to compromise.

When all negotiations failed, the Spanish Governor Garcia jumped on the opportunity to recruit Biassou and his men under the Spanish Crown army, known as the “Black Auxiliaries army”.  Then, Toussaint Breda made his entrance by joining the forces of Biassou as a “doctor” to the troops. He bought support the leadership of the rebels and mainly discussed strategy. Commending the Black Auxiliaries army, Biassou became a French speaking general with loyalty to the Spanish Crown and never returned to the French army even after the National Convention abolished Slavery on the insistence of Sonthonax. Contrarily, Toussaint switched allegiance to France although it would eventually mean to fight against Biassou. Indeed, in 1795, when the Black Auxiliaries army was disbanded, General Biassou was sent to Florida which was then part of the Spanish territory of Cuba. There, he was placed in charge of the black militia.

Francois Dominique Toussaint Louverture was around 15 when Mackandal died and 48 when Bookman lost his life. He did not participate in the ceremony at Bois Caiman. Born possibly in 1743, or maybe 1746 on the habitation Breda, near Cap Haiti, property which belong to Comte Noe. Later, this property was sold to Bayon of Libertate. He kept the official name of “Toussaint Breda” until he became more famous for his military tactics. Then they surnamed him “Toussaint L’Ouverture”. It is said that during his childhood, he heritages the name of “Fatras-Baton” suggesting that he may have been small and weak. He was a Free slave during the time of the 1791 revolution and practiced the art of manipulating medicinal plants to treat horses and humans on the habitation Breda. He was a coachman and earn money allowing him to accumulate wealth and properties at Ennery.

With his small stature, he owed his education to his god-father Pierre Baptiste Simon, also a free-person of color. By the age of 20, he was fluent in French, Creole and was able to communicate in Latin. He enjoyed repeating the words of Epictetus, a Greek philosopher who has lived most of his life as a slave. He read Machiavelli and Abbe Raynal who through their writings on slavery have also influenced Toussaint Louverture speeches.  He may have also benefited from the teachings of the Jesuits missionaries as well.

Toussaint Breda as a free-man,was a Jacobin who first fought with the Spanish against the French and then switched allegiance to the French when slavery was abolished. He fought the Spaniards and the English on behalf of Saint Domingue. He helped transform the slave insurgency of 1791 into a revolutionary movement. He became instrumental in taking control of the whole island to create a de-facto autonomous colony against the wishes of Napoleon Bonaparte. He restored the plantation system using a” paid labor system” and negotiated trade treaties between the United States and United Kingdom while he maintained a well-disciplined army. He promulgated an autonomist constitution in 1801 for the colony and self-proclaimed himself “Governor-for-life”. He established Catholicism as the only official religion of the land.

Little is known for sure about Toussaint Breda and his parents. Biographers claim that family traditions named his Grand-father as “Gaou Guinou”, a son of King Allada (Arrada) of the kingdom of Great Allada (Arrada), believed to be the actual Benin. Toussaint mother was the second wife of Gaou Guinou and Toussaint was the eldest of seven (7) children. We know also that he married Suzanne Simone Baptiste probably his cousin who gave him two sons Isaac and Saint-Jean. He adopted Placide, a son born from a previous union of Suzanne with a mulattoe, Seraphin Leclerc and had two more children from extra-marital affairs.  At the end of his life, he told General Caffarelli that he fathered 16 children with multiple women. Toussaint was considered a devout Roman Catholic and did not practice Voodoo. He may have been a freemason because of the symbol he used on his signature.

Through his military and political career, Toussaint has always used secretaries to prepare most of his correspondence. He may have been a well-known leader but he developed a lasting friendship with Jean Baptiste Bailey (1746-1805), born on the island of Goree, in Senegal and raised from the rank of slave in Saint Domingue to Captain of Infantry and finally member of the National Convention and the Council of the Five Hundred in France until 1797. A surname of “Mars” was given to him and survived Toussaint in Haiti’s fight for freedom.  He returned to Haiti with the army of Charles Leclerc in 1802 until his arrest and deportation to the fortress of Belle Ile where he remained prisoner until his death in 1805.Their military and political knowledge saved the gains of the first black insurrection (Nov 1791). Toussaint used to say: “I was born a slave but nature gave me the soul of a free man”. When he joined the revolutionary troops of George Biassou as a “doctor” to the troops, he was given a small detachment under his command. He became involved in the negotiations between the rebels and the French Governor Blanchelande to provide better conditions for the slaves until the offers were rejected. He became instrumental in avoiding the massacre of many white prisoners by Biassou.

The year 1792 saw Toussaint Breda as a leader helping an alliance between the rebels and the Spanish forces to form the West Condon, at the Post of La Tannerie, separating the rebels from the colonial French troops. He started to play an important role throughout the revolution until finally, La Tannerie was taken by the French troops led by General Etienne Laveaux and through his military tactics, Toussaint was recognized as a significant military leader. He was given the name of “Toussaint Louverture”. Others believe that he received this name because of the space he exhibited between his upper front teeth. In any way, Toussaint has begun to use the language of Freedom and Equality associated with the French revolution and become committed to the idea of a complete abolition of slavery. He addressed the rebels saying:” I have undertaken vengeance and I want Liberty and Equality to reign over Saint Domingue”. On the same day Sonthonax proclaimed the emancipation for all slaves and on the 4th of February 1794, the French Revolutionary Government in France proclaimed the abolition of Slavery.

The French revolution may be regarded as the most important event in modern history. Even more radical than the English or American Revolution, it bears more impact on 19th century Europe. The ultimate fall of the Bourbons behind the liberalism and nationalism, resonated throughout Europe and later the major socialist revolutions of the twentieth century in Russia, China and even Cuba were inspired from the French example.

Santo Domingo represented the world’s larger sugar producer for many countries with around 1800 plantations. It is believed that when the revolution started in 1791, half of a million of slaves were living on the island. The Haitian revolution started when the White French Colonists wanted the independence after the fall of the monarchy in France. The slaves have other goals and started burning plantations allowing 100,000 slaves to join the rank of the rebels. Toussaint was one of the leaders of the rebellion but only took part in talks and supported more the Spaniards in bringing his input to the revolt as we already reported earlier. Soon, he moved to the eastside of Santo Domingo and took over the territory to free the slaves.

Based on the French Enlighten of Rousseau and Diderot, the general Assembly made drastic changes in the French Laws to publish the declaration for the Rights of Man and the Citizen, declaring “all men free and equal” in 1789. Dante and Robespierre were instrumental in ending Slavery in the French colonies. They conclude that a country like France could not tolerate slavery in his outside territories. The white land owners found in this declaration an opportunity to break tie with the Metropole. Similarly, many Mulattoes, sons and daughters of the white colons who were studying in France, wanted to bring the news to the colonies with the hope of obtaining more freedom. Especially, two of them, Vincent Oge and Jean-Baptiste Chavannes, who jumped on the opportunity to return to Santo Domingo and to vindicate their rights, the same way the white colons had ideas of separation to become independent from the metropole. They wanted also the mulattoes to have more rights and especially Chavannes who tried to include in his proposal all slaves but Oge opposed the idea. There were about 28,000 free blacks and mulattoes in the colony and many of whom owned slaves while there were around 500,000 slaves.

Jean Baptiste Chavannes also volunteered to fight with the US continental army and distinguished himself during many military operations in Virginia, New York and more during the retreat at Savannah, GA, in December 1778, battle in which our future King Henry Christophe was 14 and also participated in the battle while drumming and carrying the flag of the French battalion. In any way, the mulattoes took the opportunity to raise an army of 1000 men to fight the colonists. They found resistance and many slaves supported their cause in participating to the insurrection.

After years of armed combats, the mulatto’s forces were defeated and many took refuge in the East part of the island where they were captured by the Spanish army in the area of the actual town of Hinche. The Assembly asked for their extradition according to the treaty. Vincent Oge and Jean Baptiste Chavannes were delivered to the French colonists on 21 December 1790. Two months later, both were sentenced to be “hammered to death” (Supplice of the Wheel) in front of the authorities of Cap-Francais (Cap Haiti). Chavannes showed great courage protesting until the end against the oppression of the people of African descent. Although the mulattoes and slaves continued the fight for more rights in the colony, they eventually in 1798, surrendered to the authorities to put an end to the hostilities.

Meanwhile, the white colons realized their inability to become independent from France and were forced to acclaim with open arms the 60,000 French soldiers sent by Napoleon with a “Governor” Leger Felicite Sonthonax to re-establish control on the island. The Assembly granted civil and political rights to the free-men of color in Mach 1792 and Sonthonax abolished slavery again, in the Northern part of the island of Santo Domingo. The colonists did not appreciate, that decision. They needed the slaves to work on their fields. The European countries and the United States were also shocked. So when France declared war to Britain and Spain in 1793, these white colonists, already unhappy with the ideas of Sonthonax, offered the sovereignty of the island to the British. The rebels did not request independence from France and most professed loyalty to France.

The British hesitated, claiming a bad example for their own colonies in the Caribbean but soon realized that such British campaign of Santo Domingo ended in a complete debacle and cost them thousands of dead. Spain who has control of the east part of the island joined also in the conflict against France. The Spanish forces invaded and were joined by the slave’s forces against only 3500 French soldiers left by August 1793. In Jeremie, 600 British soldiers landed and were greeted by a French population screaming: “Vivent les Anglais”. It did not take long for the main French base in Mole St Nicholas to surrender to the Royal Navy, peacefully allowing British authorities to restore Slavery. It is then that Sonthonax and Polverel of the second commission, abolished slavery over the entire territory, in August 1793 in order to save the colony.

Sonthonax and Polverel elected to delegate a free black officer, Jean Baptiste Bailey (friend of Toussaint Louverture), Jean Baptiste Mills, a mulattoe and Louis Duffay to plead the cause of the colony at the National Convention. Louis Duffay gave a brilliant speech arguing that abolishing slavery was the only way to keep the colony under French control. The convention deputies agree to state that all men living in the colonies without distinction of color were French citizens with all the rights granted by the constitution. Two French constitutions of 1793 and 1795, both include an abolition of the “slavery act”.

We know well that Toussaint Louverture, for reasons that remain obscure, decided to re-join the French army in May 1794 stating that he has forgiven his French white masters because his goal was to fight for the rights of the slaves. The abolition of slavery paved his way back to the French Army. Although, the Spaniards were not defeated, they pulled back East and Spain ceded the west portion of Santo Domingo to the French in 1795. Toussaint re-iterated that he was not seeking for independence from France but urged the surviving whites and old slave masters to stay in the colony to work with him to rebuild it. Toussaint restored the plantation system and wrote the first constitution of the colony in 1801.

In the south, Rigaud has taken back Leogane from the British with an army of mulattoes and blacks forcing the enemy to retreat toward Port-au-Prince where most of the 600 English men perished of Yellow fever (black vomit). Rigaud took over Tiburon by surprise but failed to capture Port-au-Prince on Christmas 1794. The army of mulattoes and blacks took no prisoners and executed any British soldier or sailor on their way.

The British launched “Operation Great Push” to reconquer Saint Domingue and the rest of the French west indies, sending the largest ever fleet with 200 ships and 30,000 men only to discover that it was too late. Many British regimens rioted when they learned of being deployed to Santo Domingo. The first fleet wrecked in 1795 but a second fleet reached Barbados in March 1796. Finally, 10,000 British soldiers arrived in Port-au-Prince and remained put to other costal enclaves while Yellow fever continued to claim victims among them.

They tried to direct an offensive against the French forces of Toussaint and Rigaud but they were stopped. Toussaint assaulted Fort Churchill in a ferocious battle under heavy artillery, and his forces were defeated. The morale of the British forces was at a low point and when, in May 1798, Maitland heard that Toussaint Louverture had taken Port-au-Prince, he agrees to meet with him to discuss an armistice. On the 31st of August 1798, an agreement for the British to pull from Santo Domingo was signed. Toussaint in return promised not to help in any slave revolts in Jamaica. After five years of expedition, between 1793 and 1798, the attempt to conquest Santo Domingo has cost the British Treasury 4 million pounds and 100,000 dead or disabled men.

Once the British left, Toussaint turned his attention toward Rigaud who was conspiring against him in the south of Santo Domingo. Rigaud initiated the “war of knives” against Toussaint rules attacking Petit-Goave and Grand-Goave with an army of predominantly of mulattoes taking no prisoners and putting blacks and white under the swords. Although, the United States of America was hostile to Toussaint, they agreed to support him with the deployment of the Frigate USS General Greene in providing fire support while the town of Jacmel was sieged. The ties of Rigaud with France represented a treat to the USA as well. On the 11th of March 1800, Jacmel surrendered and Rigaud fled on the French Schooner La Diana. Toussaint maintained that he remains loyal to France and ruled the island as a dictator.

As a self-educated former domestic slave, Toussaint Louverture like Jean Francois and Biassou whom he fought with for the Spanish Crown, has decided to fight for the French when the British army invaded Santo Domingo, under the condition that all slaves will be set free. Sonthonax had already assured that all slaves be given equal rights and has abolished slavery. In August 1792, Toussaint worked with the French General Etienne Laveaux to ensure that all slaves would be freed and bought his forces over to the French side on 6 May 1794 after the Spanish refused to take steps to end slavery.

Under his military leadership, his forces were made up mostly of former slaves. Toussaint was intelligent, articulate and organized. The island had an effective autonomy and he started eliminating his local enemies. He pursued Sonthonax, then Rigaud and Hedouville until he succeeded. He led a campaign to the east part of the island to free the slaves. After he proclaimed a new constitution for Saint Domingue in 1801 in which he decreed himself” Governor for life”. Napoleon did not appreciate it and dispatched a large expedition of French soldiers led by his brother-in-law, Charles Leclerc to restore French rule and slavery.  Leclerc summoned Toussaint to Le Cap and was told to wage “a war to death” with no mercy until the killing of all followers. Numerous French soldiers were accompanied by mulattoes’ troops led by Alexandre Petion and Andre Rigaud both who were defeated by Toussaint.

The French troops arrived on 2 February 1802 at Le Cap and Leclerc summoned Henry Christophe to surrender the town. Christophe refused and set the town in fire when the French troops assaulted. Toussaint failed to show off forcing Leclerc to proclaim Henry Christophe and himself outlaws. He requested that all citizens hunt them down on 17 February 1802. Toussaint wrote a letter to Jean-Jacques Dessalines to outline his plans to defeat the French army but Dessalines never received it. He was busy in Leogane fighting a French regimen prior to burn down the city. The French were expecting all blacks who formed the army of Toussaint to happily go back to slavery. They were also surprised that all white men, women and children who came in contact with Dessalines soldiers, were massacred in Leogane. General Pamphile de la Croix was shocked after seeing the ruins of the town of Leogane.

Leclerc ordered four French columns to march toward Gonaives, the headquarter of Toussaint forces. One of the columns was commanded by General Donatien Rochambeau, a supremacist, and a strong supporter of slavery. Toussaint tried to stop them at Ravine-a-Couleuvre in the mountains setting an ambush. His forces lost 800 men in ferocious combats forcing him to pull back while the French army broke through with heavy loss. Toussaint setup camp at the fortress Crete-a-Pierrot which was built by the British forces to affront the French troops. Dessalines was already there to fight the columns and standing with a lit torch on a top of a gunpowder barrel with his men ready to die for liberty. Dessalines attacked the column commanded by General Boudet, inflicting heavy loss while the general was wounded in the fight. The French troops retreated.

Another column directed by General Leclerc himself was also forced to retreat. General Dugat was killed in combat and General Leclerc was wounded. The last column commanded by General Rochambeau showed up finally with heavy artillery which dismantled the artillery that Dessalines used but the indigenous rebels kept their grounds and pushed back the last column with heavy loss. Finally, after 21 days of fighting, Dessalines ordered his forces to abandon the positions on the 24th March 1802 because of shortage of ammunition and food. Rochambeau wrote that “this impossible retreat of the  indigenous forces entrapped, was an incredible feat of arms”. The French army won but left behind more than 2000 bodies.

After the Crete-a-Pierrot battle, the forces of Toussaint stopped fighting in conventional battles but reverted into guerilla tactics. The rainy season helping, the mosquitoes brought another outbreak of yellow fever. The French troops were exhausted, fatigued and by the end of March 1802, around 5000 French soldiers have perished from yellow fever while another 5000 were hospitalized.

In April 1802, the situation changed when Henry Christophe along with most of the indigenous army defected to the French. Toussaint Louverture was promised to keep his freedom if he agrees to integrate with his remaining troops to the French army. He agreed on 6 May 1802 after 11 years of wars. Leclerc gave him his word that slavery would not be restored into Saint Domingue. Toussaint was given a plantation at Ennery.

We know better the way he was deceived, arrested by the French troops and shipped to France to be a prisoner at Fort-de-Joux, in the Jura Mountains. Dessalines also surrendered in Cap to the French troops and was rewarded the title of Governor of Saint Marc. The surrender of Christophe, Toussaint and Dessalines did not mean the end of the resistance, the guerilla warfare continued. In retaliation, the French started mass execution by fire squad, hanging, drowning in bags etc.

The island became quiet under the Napoleon rule but when it became apparent that slavery was going to be re-instated like it happened in Guadeloupe, the black cultivators revolted. Leclerc realized the impact of Yellow Fever on his men. By the summer of 1802, he had some 8000 soldiers among whom 5000 were of Polish descent and many fought for France in return for the hope that France will restore the independence of their country. Many died of yellow fever as well. Others defected to join the rank of the indigenous army on the side of freedom, thinking that they were fighting for the wrong cause.

Dessalines and Petion left the rank of the French Army and returned to fight with the indigenous army in October 1802. In November 1802, Leclerc died of Yellow Fever. The Vicomte of Rochambeau ordered to kill all blacks. He imported 15,000 attack dogs from Jamaica and started drowning black as recommended by Leclerc before his death, while Bonaparte sent a re-enforcement of 20,000 men.

Dessalines matched Rochambeau in cruelty killing as many whites as Rochambeau killed blacks. Dessalines chose to stick the heads of his victims on spikes. Some royalist farmers rallied to the cause of the indigenous and the rebels managed to decisively defeat the French troops at the battle of Vertieres on the 18 November 1803. A new nation of Haiti was born where slaves, mulattoes, rich or poor colons, polish soldiers who deserted the rank of the French troops, have all contributed to the Haitian victory. Napoleon lost a great deal of army and fortune but after selling the Louisiana territories in April 1803, he accepted defeat. Dessalines won many more battles against Leclerc and Rochambeau becoming the most successful military commander in the struggle against Napoleonic France. Unfortunately, Toussaint has never been able to enjoy the final victory for which so many lives were lost.

Napoleon was fighting on too many fronts. A naval war with the British Empire in May 1803, forced the Royal navy to dispatch a squadron from Jamaica to cruise the Caribbean waters in order to eliminate any communication between the French outpost and to capture or destroy any French warship around the colony. That blockade of Saint Domingue stopped the French from supplying reinforcements to their army and benefited the indigenous armies. Rochambeau troops were trapped and fell into pieces; the men were sick and many died of Yellow Fever, leaving Rochambeau himself enjoying a colossal fortune while taking time to perform banquets and military balls in Saint Domingue.

This is with pleasure that I chose to enumerate the facts of war of our ancestors and I take this opportunity to dedicate this article to all the Haitiano American kids who are growing up in the United States, not knowing much about the epic fights leading to the Independence of Haiti. Our ancestors are our heroes for being able to lead such a long battle to the only successful anti-slavery and anticolonial insurrection against Napoleon and the French army. I wanted to tell them in my words our story with pride. These heroes pay dearly with their lives to fray us a way for generations to live free. We need to honor their sacrifice in assuring that their dreams will not die in vain. May Haiti survive, long after we are called to join our Creator.

Maxime Coles MD

February 2020



1-    Duncan Rick (2013-07-09) Man Know Thyself: Volume 1 Corrective Knowledge of Our Notable Ancestors.

2-    Asante Molefi Kete Mozama Ama (2009-01-01) Encyclopedia of African Religion.

3-    Girard Phillipe R (2010) Haitian Revolution in Leslie Alexander Ed. Encyclopedia of African American History: Dubois, Laurent (2004) Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution: Cambridge Massachusetts Belknap Press P 101.

4-    John K Thornton: I AM the Subject of the King of Congo: African Political Ideology and the Haitian Revolution (Archived).

5-    Cesaire Aime, Toussaint Louverture: (Paris; Presence Africaine, 1981).

6-    Girard Phillipe R “Black Talleyrand: Toussaint Louverture ‘s secret Diplomacy with England and the United States.” William and Mary Quarterly 66 (January 2009) pp 87-124.

7-    Girard Phillipe R (2011) The Slaves who defeated Napoleon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence 1801-1804; The University of Alabama Press.

8-    James C L R; Toussaint Louverture: The story of the only successful slave revolt in history, A Play in Three Acts. 1934.

9-    Joseph Celucien L “From Toussaint to Price-Mars: Rhetoric, Race, and Religion in Haitian Thought” (2013).

10- Foix Alain: Toussaint Louverture, Paris Ed Gallimard 2007.

11- Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Century of Slavery in North America. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1998) p, 306-307.

12- Thomas Madiou. Histoire D’Haiti Tome 1 1482-1799. Editions Henri Deschamps, p 98.

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