The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) was the most successful of African slave rebellions in the Western Hemisphere. It established Haiti as a free republic ruled by blacks, the first of its kind. At the time of the revolution, Haiti was known as Saint-Domingue and was a colony of France. Through the revolution, people of African ancestry freed themselves from French colonization and from slavery. Although hundreds of rebellions occurred during the slave era, only the 1791 revolt on Saint-Domingue succeeded in permanently liberating an entire island.
Haiti was the first republic led by people of African descent in modern history. It went directly from being a French colony to self-governance through a process that has had lasting effect on the nation. Slaveholders had established a system using violence and force in controlling the majority. Unfortunately leaders rising in the nascent black republic adopted similar means to keep control. An elite comprised of educated free people of color took control of political and economic power.
Historians traditionally identify the catalyst to revolution as a particular Vodou service in August 1791 performed at Bois Caïman by Dutty Boukman, a priest. But a number of complex events set the stage that culminated in the most significant revolt in the history of enslaved Africans. continue reading