“The Haitian Revolution [..] entered history with the peculiar characteristic of being unthinkable even as it happened”

–Michel-Rolph Trouillot

 

The 1791 Haitian revolution was one of the most significant yet the most silenced revolts in colonial history. It was the first black led revolt for freedom from slavery and the oppressive shackles of colonial slave trade in a small Island on the Atlantic, San Domingo (present day Haiti). The revolt came as a colossal shock to the French colonialists because the colony at San Domingo was widely coveted by other European colonial powers due to its riches and mass material wealth premised on the Atlantic slave trade. The importance of the slave revolt was greatly undermined by the French colonialists even while it was happening because it was unimaginable to come to terms with the fact that a colony that had contributed crucially to the development of colonial capitalism was fighting to end slavery, dismantle French colonialism and form the first free black nation in the world. Interestingly enough, the Haitian revolution was unfolding at the same time as the French Revolution in Paris, and the black slave population in San Domingo were increasingly empowered by the events of the French Revolution. Thus, there was an overlap in both the revolutions as ideas and revolutionary zeal were exchanged between the two countries.

While barely accounted for in historical accounts and history textbooks, the Haitian revolution was monumental in the spreading of revolutionary ideas to the rest of the world, as it became a blueprint for revolutionary fervour and action.