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February 2, 2010

Dutty Boukman Vodoun Priest in Haiti

Dutty Boukman (Boukman Dutty) was a Jamaican born houngan, or vodoun priest who conducted a religious ceremony in which a freedom covenant was affirmed, this ceremony is considered a catalyst to the slave uprising that marked the beginning of the Haïtian Revolution.

Boukman Dutty was a self educated slave born on the island of Jamaica, his first name on the island means "book man", his last name means "dirty".  He was later sold by his British master to a French plantation owner after he attempted to teach other Jamaican slaves to read, who put him to work as a commandeur (slave driver) and, later, a coach driver.

His French name came from his English nickname, "Book Man," which some scholars have interpreted as meaning that he was Muslim since even in Africa a Muslim was referred to as a "man of the book": "It is likely that Boukman was a Jamaican Muslim who had a Koran, and that he got his nickname from this. Ceremony at the Bois Caïman In August 1791, Boukman presided in the role of houngan (priest) together with an African-born priestess and conducted a freedom ceremony at the Bois Caïman and prophesied that the slaves Jean François, Biassou, and Jeannot would be leaders of a resistance movement and revolt that would free the slaves of Saint-Domingue.

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A pig, which symbolized the wild, free, and untameable spiritual power of the forest and the ancestors, was sacrificed, an oath was taken, and Boukman and the priestess exhorted the listeners to take revenge against their French oppressors and "[c]ast aside the image of the God of the whites."

According to the Encyclopedia of African Religion, "Blood from the animal, and some say from humans as well, was given in a drink to the attendees to seal their fates in loyalty to the cause of liberation of Sainte-Domingue." A week later, 1800 plantations had been destroyed and 1000 slaveholders killed. Boukman was not the first to attempt a slave uprising in Saint-Domingue, as he was preceded by others, such as Padrejean in 1676, and François Mackandal in 1757. However, his large size, warrior-like appearance, and fearsome temper made him an effective leader and helped spark the Haitian Revolution.

Death and legacy

Boukman was killed by the French in November, just a few months after the beginning of the uprising. The French then publicly displayed Boukman's head in an attempt to dispel the aura of invincibility that Boukman had cultivated.

A fictionalized version of Boukman appears as the title character in American Communist writer Guy Endore's novel Babouk, a leftist and anti-capitalist parable about the Haitian revolution.

Haitians honored Boukman by admitting him into the pantheon of loa (guiding spirits).
In the Lance Horner book The Black Sun, the Boukman ("Bouckmann") uprising is retold.

In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Pat Robertson, host of The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network reiterated the cultural perception surrounding the ceremony over which Boukman presided that a "pact with the devil" had taken place, and called the country "cursed." Various prominent, mainline Christian voices have criticized Robertson's remarks on the Haiti crisis as blindly flailed erroneous slurs that were compounded by being untimely, insensitive, and not representative of the values typified in Christian theology.

On CBN's website, a statement was given by a spokesman for the organization stating that Dr. Robertson never said that the earthquake was punishment from God. An arm of CBN called Operation Blessing has been helping the people of Haiti over the last year, and they are now involved in a very large relief effort,sending medicine and aid. source

1 comment:

Fly Girl said...

Boukman continues to be an important Haitian figure. His defiance in the face of death is an image that helps many Haitians live through the struggles of modern Haiti. The ppopular Haitian group, Boukman Eksperyans, is named for him.


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