Slaves initiated the rebellion in 1791 and by 1803 they had succeeded in ending not just slavery but French control over the colony. 

In the 18th century, Saint Dominigue, as Haiti was then known, became France's wealthiest overseas colony, largely because of its production of sugar, coffee, indigo, and cotton generated by an enslaved labor force.  When the French revolution broke out in 1789 there were five distinct sets of interest groups in the colony. There were white planters -- who owned the plantations and the slaves -- and petit blancs, who were artisans, shop keepers and teachers.  Some of them also owned a few slaves.  Together they numbered 40,000 of the colony’s residents.  Many of the whites on Saint Dominigue began to support an independence movement that began when France imposed steep tariffs on the items imported into the colony.  

Resistance and the Haitian revolution

The insurrection on the island of San Domingo came from the mass of enslaved blacks in the French sugar plantation colony there, who risked everything to pursue freedom. In 1791, the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution, at first localized in one district of the colony’s northern plain, soon spawned waves of slave insurgencies that assembled and fought the horrors of oppression. Historical accounts written by white contemporaries downplayed the organization of the blacks, and proposed chaotic, random events by groups of revolting slaves as the cause of revolution. However, the resistance had leadership, organization, and a unifying objective. Their struggle lasted for twelve years, and became the only successful slave revolt in human history.

Slave Resistance: A Caribbean Study

At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the colony of St. Domingue, now Haiti, furnished two-thirds of France’s overseas trade, employed one thousand ships and fifteen thousand French sailors. The colony became France’s richest, the envy of every other European nation. This plantation system, which provided such a pivotal role in the French economy, was also the greatest individual market for the African slave trade. Yet, conflict and resentment permeated the society of San Domingo, and slave resistance began to take an organized form in the late 18th century. The French Revolution did inspire many in 1789, but black resistance had existed for years. In August of 1791 an organized slave rebellion broke out, marking the start of a twelve-year resistance to obtain human rights. The Haitian Revolution is the only successful slave revolt in history, and resulted in the establishment of Haiti, the first independent black state in the New World.

History of Haiti

History of Haiti

Part 1: Pre-Colonial through Independence (1804)


We know Haiti today as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere,1 a small area of land in the Caribbean frequently plagued by natural and economic disasters. As we seek to pray for and serve this nation, we would be greatly helped by understanding its history—the events, worldviews, and cycles of oppression that have shaped its current condition and culture. This is part one of a three-part series; 

A History of Haiti, Part 1

Pre-Colonial through Independence (1804)

It is estimated that Haiti was originally settled in 5000 B.C. It was developed with farming communities as early as 300 B.C. Of the original Amerindian inhabitants, the dominant people group was the Taino, followed by the Ciboney. The lifestyle and influence of these people determined much of how Haiti functioned before the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the fifteenth century. The culture was largely agrarian, trading in farmed cassava root, fish, and crafted commodities among neighboring islands and peoples.2

Haiti: A Slave Revolution- Ramsey Clark -- Haiti's Agonies

Haiti's Agonies and Exaltations

Ramsey Clark

The history of Haiti will break your heart. Knowing it, the weak will despair, but the caring will strive to break the chains of tragedy.

When Columbus landed on the island in December 1492, he found a native Arawak, or Taino, population of three million people or more, well fed, with cultivated fields, lots of children, living in peace. It had by far the largest population of any island in the Caribbean. Twenty-two years later, there were fewer than 27,000 who had not fallen victim to the sword, the ravages of forced labor, and diseases heretofore unknown to them. The Spaniards called the island La Ysla Española, which in use became Hispaniola.


The native people called the island Haiti, a word that three hundred years after the Europeans arrived would strike fear throughout the empires of the hemisphere built on slave labor and societies that accepted its practice, but bring hope to slaves as they heard of it.

From slavery to Sarkozy in Haiti

Peniel E. Joseph, a Haitian-American, teaches history at Tufts University. His latest book is "Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama." Patrick Sylvain is a Haitian language and culture instructor at Brown University and a language coach at Harvard. His latest bilingual poetry collection is "Love, Lust & Loss."

(CNN) -- Haiti's emergence as the first free black republic, forged against the backdrop of Caribbean and North American slavery, is pivotal to today's discussions of citizenship, democracy, and freedom.

First Haitian slave revolt

On this date in 1790, the first slave revolt in Haiti took place.

The island was settled in the 1600s by French buccaneers. In 1664, the newly established French West India Company took control ofthe colony, and named it named Saint-Domingue. France formally claimed control of the western portion of the island of Hispaniola., and later, France named its newly colonized island Saint Domingue in early 1700s.

Episode 11: The Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution, which took place between 1791-1804, is significant because Haiti is the only country where slave freedom was taken by force, and marks the only successful slave revolt in modern times. A ragtag force of slaves managed to unify Haiti, defeat Europe’s most powerful army and become the first country in Latin America to gain independence, second only to the United States in the Americas as a whole.

Dominican Republic History: 1492-1821

In April 1492, Cristobal Colon’s (the Spanish name for the explorer known as Christopher Columbus in English) conditions for the exploration of trade routes to India were accepted by the Spanish monarchs, King Fernando and Queen Isabel (Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile). Columbus was given the titles of Viceroy, Admiral and Governor of the lands to be discovered, as well as 10% of the wealth obtained. Shortly after, in August 1492, Columbus left the port of Palos, Spain in search of a new trade route to India. 

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