How Haiti Saved the United States

Part 2: The Haitian Revolt

The slaves set fire to the plantations they worked in and demanded their freedom. With crops burning to a crisp as a backdrop, the slaves offered to fight for their right to freedom. Leading them was Toussaint L'Overture, himself a former slave. He was so successful at training and leading the 500,000 slaves (10 times the number of plantation owners) that even though it took a long time, they eventually conquered all of Haiti and all of Santo Domingo, the other half of the island. In 1801, L'Overture proclaimed himself governor-general of the entire island. He also outlawed slavery on the island.

This didn't sit well with Napoleon, Emperor of France. The French didn't like losing Haiti, their wealthiest colony; and they certainly didn't like losing their colony to a rebel leader and a bunch of slaves. So Napoleon set a trap for L'Overture; sadly, the Haitian hero fell for it and was thrown into prison, where he died in 1803.

In that same year, French armies sailed to Haiti and tried to reinstate slavery, with French masters in charge, as before. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of Toussaint's generals and a former slave, led the Haitian forces to victory. It was a great day for Haiti and a great day for Africans everywhere.

On January 1, 1804, Dessalines declared the creation of the Republic of Haiti. This was the first black republic anywhere in the world.

Next page > The Haitian Legacy > Page 1, 2, 3

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