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This Week In Black History: To be forever free

Black Caribbean Literature (BCL)
Newspaper Article
Publication Date:
Highland Park, MI
African American Research Center, Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject Term:
Caribbean area, History, Blacks, Haiti, Culture
On January 1, 1804, Gen. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, proclaimed to the world that his country, henceforth to be called Haiti, was free and independent. Previously dominated by France since buccaneers settled there in 1697, the small Caribbean island, whose eastern portion was under Spanish rule, had become an important slave colony. The slaves were imported from Africa and lived a harsh reality in comparison to the minority white slaveholding population. In 1789, Santo Domingo, as France called the colony, consisted of 450,000 enslaved Blacks, 40,000 whites, and 28,000 free Blacks and mulattos. The death rate for the enslaved population was high: While more than 800,000 Africans had been enslaved in the colony in the 1700s, only 450,000 survived in 1789. In 1791 a slave rebellion under the leadership of Vodou priest Boukman sparked a revolution that lasted thirteen years, culminating in independence in 1804. Toussaint L'Overture was the primary leader among the enslaved population, playing France against the British and Spanish, as he maneuvered the struggle closer to independence. However, in hoping to maintain a friendly relationship with France, L'Overture was deceived and placed in the French gallows upon an invitation to France. His able subordinates Dessalines and Henri Christophe, however, continued the liberation effort achieving independence and eventually driving all whites off the island nation.