A Piece of History
Toussaint L'Overture - Haiti's Liberator
The first of January is a day when we usually pop a few bottles and celebrate the new year, but the day also holds an important place in black history. On January 1, 1804, the island nation of Haiti became the only country ever to form after a slave revolt, and the first independent Black republic.
Its history isn't much different from the other colonized areas in the west. The indigenous Arawak's and Taino's were wiped out by infectious diseases like smallpox, so the Spanish turned to African slaves to replenish the population and mine for gold.
In 1625, the French started colonizing the island, eventually renaming is Saint-Dominique. The French side eventually became the richest colony in the West from the sugar and coffee trade. By 1790, the population had grown into thee distinct groups. The Europeans numbered about 32,000, there were also about 28,00 free blacks, and the slave population numbered about 500,000.
The French Revolution served as an inspiration to the non-European population, which pressured the government for expanded rights. In 1791, the French National Assembly granted political rights to all blacks who were born free, but not to the slaves. The slaves in the North however, rose up to fight their masters, and under the leadership of Toussaint L'Overture, the French army was defeated. L'Overture was eventually captured and died in jail, but Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe resumed the rebellion and defeated Napoleon's army.
Jean-Jaques Dessalines - Haiti's first emperor
The nation declared its independence in 1804, and became the second country after the United States to become independent, and it was all because of the only successfull slave rebellion in (modern) world history. The name Haiti was chosen to recognize the former Arawak name for the island, Ayti.
Labels: black history