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Teaching about Haiti in World History: An Introduction

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall


"Haiti lies only six hundred miles from Florida. . . .Considering its neighborhood, its strategic location, and its unique character as the only self-constituted negro republic in the world, it is remarkable that the land and its people should be so little known to Americans. Although Haitian history has been closely related to that of the United States for more than two centuries, to the American mind Haiti remains a land of foreboding and mystery—terra incognita."

—Ludwell Lee Montague,
Haiti and the United States, 1714–1938 (1940)

     These words, penned seven decades ago, could almost have been written today. Despite Haiti's centrality to many key themes of modern world history, Haiti barely registers in the historical consciousness of most foreigners (including Americans, despite Haiti's proximity and the two countries' long and entangled history of relations). To some degree, the 2010 earthquake attracted more attention to the island's history. At the same time, the 24-hour news coverage of the tragedy only underscored foreigners' scant knowledge about Haiti. Those who struggled to understand Haiti's suffering often referred to it as the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, but could not explain how it came to be so.

     Why has there been so little knowledge about the history of Haiti, a country that the U.S. occupied from 1915–1934 and in which it intervened militarily in 1994 and 2004? The Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804 was part of the same process of Atlantic Revolutions as its more famous U.S., French and Latin American counterparts. Yet for too long, most foreign scholars wrote the Haitian Revolution out of history. Aside from a few works which attracted attention outside Haitian history (such as C.LR. James's 1938 classic The Black Jacobins), the Haitian Revolution went unmentioned in historical surveys. Even works specifically on the Atlantic Revolutions (such as R. R. Palmer's Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760–1800 [1959] and Jacques Godechot's France and the Atlantic Revolution of the Eighteenth Century, 1770–1799 [1965]) said little about Haiti.

     In the last fifteen years, this situation has changed, as scholars have paid increasing attention to the Haitian Revolution and to its global historical significance. In a 2000 essay in the American Historical Review, Franklin Knight called the Haitian Revolution "the most thorough case study of revolutionary change anywhere in the history of the modern world"; he added that, unlike other revolutions of its time, it had rendered all citizens "legally equal, regardless of color, race or condition." Similarly, in his 2004 book Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution, Laurent Dubois argued that the Haitian Revolution was more radically egalitarian than either the American or French Revolution:

By creating a society in which all people, of all colors, were granted freedom and citizenship, the Haitian Revolution forever transformed the world. It was a central part of the destruction of slavery in the Americas, and therefore a crucial moment in the history of democracy, one that laid the foundation for the continuing struggles for human rights everywhere. In this sense we are all descendants of the Haitian Revolution, and responsible to these ancestors.1

With the increased interest in the Haitian Revolution, world history textbooks increasingly mention the revolution and the former slave who become its leader, Toussaint Louverture.

     Nevertheless, even to many who now acknowledge the importance of Haiti's revolution, the rest of the country's history remains a mystery. Haiti disappears in most world history textbooks after its revolution, except for occasional references to the 1915–1934 U.S. occupation of the island in chapters on imperialism. Moreover, even when the Revolution is invoked in these texts, it is often discussed in a superficial or outdated way.

     Haiti is in fact an ideal window for understanding multiple processes in world history, from European colonization of the Americas to globalization and the complex relationships between humans and nature. As a new volume (Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, Haitian History: New Perspectives (Routledge, 2013) illustrates, Haitian history helps students understand myriad questions, such as: Why did Europeans conquer the New World, and what impact did they have on those they sought to dominate? What were the relations between the different revolutions (American, French, Haitian, Latin American) in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Haitian history also forces students to think about questions such as: How do ideas about race and gender influence the course of history? Whose history is recorded in archives, and whose history is remembered? How can historians try to uncover the ideas and experiences of non-elites? As scholars have increasingly taken up the challenge of answering such questions with regard to Haiti, the number of publications on Haitian history has increased exponentially.

     To help teachers navigate the burgeoning mass of literature on Haitian history, I offer here a selected list of resources that can be used in the classroom, on topics from colonial Haiti to the 2010 earthquake and its aftermath. These represent just a sample of the many ways that Haiti can be integrated into teaching on world history. Additional resources on these topics, plus many others, are provided in Sepinwall, Haitian History: New Perspectives (see especially the "For Further Reading" lists at the end of each Section Introduction).

Conquest of the Americas/New World Slavery

     Haiti is an ideal setting for students to study the conquest of the Americas, as well as early modern colonialism and Atlantic slavery. Columbus landed on Hispaniola (the island on which Haiti sits) in 1492, and established there the first European colony in the New World. The island typifies all too well the Columbian Exchange process, as its indigenous Arawak-speakers were among the first in the New World to be decimated by Old World diseases and violence. The island also exemplifies the systems of New World sugar production and slavery. Once the French colonized the western third of Hispaniola (calling it Saint-Domingue), they devastated the native landscape, chopping down forests to make room for plantations. They turned Saint-Domingue into the wealthiest colony in the Americas and the world's leading exporter of sugar and coffee.2 But their efforts had long-term ramifications for Haiti (including, as noted below, making it more vulnerable to earthquakes). More immediately, to prevent enslaved Africans from revolting, Saint-Domingue was one of the most brutal of the New World slave societies. Because more than 90% of the population was enslaved and the threat of resistance was ever-present, slaveowners were particularly violent. Finally, colonial Saint-Domingue was the major trading partner of the British North American colonies. As John Adams said in 1783, "We are necessary to them, and they are to us."3

     There are numerous short documents that instructors can use to teach about the island from Columbus's arrival through French colonization. One extremely revealing letter was sent by Spain's King Ferdinand with Christopher Columbus, to be read to the people he encountered. The letter vividly illustrates European attitudes toward the peoples they aimed to conquer in the Caribbean. Ferdinand declared that if the peoples whom Columbus met refused to accept Spanish domination and to convert to Catholicism, they would be enslaved and their possessions seized. Another arresting document instructors can use, to illustrate the history of slavery in colonial Saint-Domingue, is the Code Noir (Black Code) of 1685, an excerpt from which is available at Another possibility would be selections from the French colonist Moreau de Saint-Méry's racial taxonomy of the island. Finally, the work of Carolyn Fick offers an eye-opening look at Saint-Domingue slave society and at the vicious punishments that slaveowners devised to keep slaves from revolting.4

Haitian Revolution

     In a famous 1995 essay, Michel-Rolph Trouillot sought to understand the longtime neglect of the Haitian Revolution in Western historiography. He concluded that the Haitian Revolution was "unthinkable" to racist whites of the late eighteenth century, who therefore sought to ignore it. Even if modern Western historians no longer share the outward racism of their predecessors, Trouillot found that they have often treated the Revolution in a comparable way; they have either ignored it, or have sought to minimize its significance (suggesting, for instance, that Haitians did not revolt of their own initiative, but were the puppets of the British or of various French revolutionary factions).

     In the last twenty years, scholarship on the Revolution has moved considerably beyond the state of affairs described by Trouillot. Scholarly analyses are increasingly sophisticated, and world history textbooks have made great strides in including the Haitian Revolution alongside its more famous American and French counterparts. Nevertheless, even well-intentioned textbooks often leave something to be desired. Even when Haiti is acknowledged as an important Atlantic revolution, it is generally presented not as an autonomous movement, but as having been prompted by French revolutionary ideology. For instance, World History (Cengage, 2013) suggests that the slaves rebelled in Haiti because they were "inspired by the ideals of the revolution occurring in France." Ways of the World (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011) states that it was the "ideas and example of the French Revolution" that sparked the Haitian Revolution. Similarly, The World: A Brief History (Pearson, 2008) maintains that French ideals of "'the rights of man' . . . provided Haitian slaves with a basic ideology of liberation." Aside from some exceptions (such as Worlds Together, Worlds Apart and The Earth and Its Peoples), most textbooks frame the Haitian Revolution in a similar way.5

Figure 1
  Figure 1: J.-Louis Darcis and Simon-Louis Boizot, "Moi libre aussi" [man], end of the 18th Century (France). Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.  

Figure 1
  Figure 2: J.-Louis Darcis and Simon-Louis Boizot, "Moi libre aussi" [woman], end of the 18th Century (France). From Wikimedia Commons.  

     Such treatment of Haiti's Revolution brings to mind the famous French revolutionary images which depict an African man and woman each declaring "Moi Libre Aussi," or "Me Free Too" (Figures 1 and 2, available also at and What I call "Me Free Too" scholarship on the Haitian Revolution implies that slaves in Saint-Domingue would not have imagined revolting until they overheard talk from white Frenchmen about "liberty, equality and fraternity." This mode of thought overlooks the history of pre-1789 slave resistance on the island. It also reflects certain assumptions of Eurocentric thinking more generally; it portrays non-Westerners as passive objects who act in history only when awakened by Western ideas.

     "Me Free Too" thinking has a long history in non-Haitian writing about the Haitian Revolution. C.L.R. James' 1938 The Black Jacobins has been justly celebrated for taking the Revolution seriously as an anticolonial movement and for establishing its international significance. Nevertheless, even James, reflecting the ideals of pan-African intellectuals who sought to "uplift" other Africans whom they viewed as less civilized, adopted elements of this way of thinking. In addition to calling his book "The Black Jacobins" (that is, portraying Haiti's rebel leaders as black imitators of the French revolutionaries), James suggested that slaves were "sleeping" before 1791 and that it was only "the quarrel between the whites and Mulattoes that woke" them. He also portrayed the slave rebel masses as "lacking civic discipline," "running wild" and without culture. 6

     Recent scholarship has sought to depart from "Me Free Too" thinking by offering a more complex view of Saint-Domingue's slaves and of the Revolution's origins. Carolyn Fick's work is an ideal starting point for giving students a glimpse of these more sophisticated ways of understanding Haiti's revolution. Building on Haitian scholars such as Jean Fouchard, Fick has contended that slave resistance began in Saint-Domingue long before 1791. She surveys the many ways that slaves resisted their condition, even without erupting into open revolt. These ranged from poisoning masters to marronage (running away) to participation in Vodou. Fick concludes that the idea for the Haitian Revolution did not come from the French Revolution and its ideals of liberty. Instead, she suggests, the latter revolution merely offered an opportune moment for Saint-Domingue's slaves to seize the freedom they had long desired.7

     John Thornton's article, "'I am the Subject of the King of Congo': African Political Ideology and the Haitian Revolution," is another ideal reading to assign. Thornton's work is, in my view, one of the most exciting pieces to emerge from world history research. Thornton applies his training as an Africanist to understand Saint-Domingue's slaves. He asks how the ideals and practices of those born in Africa had been shaped by their experiences before being captured and sold. Thornton argues that "Kongo might be seen as a fount of revolutionary ideas as much as France was," because Kongo also had republican conceptions of government in the eighteenth century. Another excellent piece by Thornton examines the military experience of Haiti's African-born slaves. Where other scholars have been puzzled by the success of Saint-Domingue's slaves against the French army, Thornton notes that newly arrived slaves often had a great deal of military experience from African wars.8 As I tell my students, it makes sense to think of significant numbers of Saint-Domingue's African-born slaves as kidnapped veterans, the eighteenth-century equivalent of American POWs. Even if they had become disoriented by the trauma of their capture and by the conditions of their servitude, it should not be surprising that they searched for an opening to use their military skills to fight for their freedom. 1791 represented just such an opportunity, as the French were increasingly distracted by the factional violence of their own revolution.

     In addition to assigning recent scholarship on the Haitian Revolution, teachers can draw upon a wealth of translated primary sources. These include many speeches and proclamations by Toussaint Louverture, the eventual leader of the Revolution, as well as many other short documents.9 For an understanding of how colonial whites experienced the shocking changes around them, teachers can also choose selections from the superb collection of first-person narratives compiled by Jeremy Popkin.10 To provide further context for these primary sources, teachers might also assign one of the excellent short overviews of the Revolution by David Geggus, or the longer ones by Laurent Dubois, John Garrigus and/or Jeremy Popkin.11

Post-Colonial Haiti

     Haiti often drops out of the world history survey after its independence. But, as the first successful anti-colonial revolt in the age of European expansion, it represents an ideal case for examining the challenges of post-coloniality. Does the end of colonialism leave a nation free to chart its own course? In what ways do new leaders break free from colonial practices and ideals, and in what ways do they often continue them? What difficulties face newly independent leaders? Though the literature on the first decades of Haiti's independence is smaller and less well-known than that on the Haitian Revolution, there are numerous resources that can help students explore these issues. These include the Haitian Constitution of 1805, as well as translated writings by early Haitian leaders compiled by the Haitian statesman Baron de Vastey.12 Other articles which analyze the challenges faced by early nineteenth-century Haitian leaders include Mimi Sheller's "Sword-Bearing Citizens: Militarism and Manhood in Nineteenth-Century Haiti"; and my own article on the relations between Haiti's new leaders and the European abolitionist Henri Grégoire.13 Laurent Dubois's lively Haiti: The Aftershocks of History has especially good coverage of nineteenth-century Haiti.14

Foreign Reaction to Haiti's Revolution and Independence

     Teachers seeking to globalize their teaching of U.S. history and of the American Revolution can also enrich their courses by integrating material on Haiti. The American Founding Fathers' reaction to the Haitian Revolution is an ideal vehicle for exploring their ideas about race; it also illustrates the interconnectedness of Atlantic societies during the Age of Revolutions. Teachers can guide students to consider how Americans debated whether to support the Haitian Revolution, which was a complex question since the American Revolution did not extend freedom to American slaves. Where some individual Americans adopted the view that the Haitian Revolution was a Revolution like our own, others took the position that the Haitian Revolution had to be stopped before American slaves were inspired to emulate it; it was the latter view that won out. As newly independent Haiti tried to restart its economy after a decade of war, the United States, under President Thomas Jefferson, imposed a trade embargo. The U.S. embargo of Haiti is particularly eye-opening to students who have heard about Haitian poverty, but do not understand their country's role in hampering Haiti's economic self-sufficiency.15 One vivid quote to use comes from Senator Thomas Hart Benton, who announced in the Senate in 1825 that

Our policy towards Hayti. . . has been fixed . . . for three and thirty years. We trade with her, but no diplomatic relations have been established between us. . . We receive no mulatto consuls, or black ambassadors from her. And why? Because the peace of eleven states will not permit the fruits of a successful negro insurrection to be exhibited among them. It will not permit black ambassadors and consuls to . . . give their fellow blacks in the United States proof in hand of the honors that await them for a like successful effort on their part. It will not permit the fact to be seen, and told, that for the murder of their masters and mistresses, they are to find friends among the white people of these United States.16

Instructors can note that Benton's view was by far the dominant one among whites in the United States. Indeed, the U.S. did not recognize Haiti until 1862, almost sixty years after its independence.

     World history instructors can also integrate material on Latin American reactions to the Haitian Revolution. Scholars have noted, on the one hand, the fear of Latin American slaveowners that the Revolution would spread to their colonies, and, on the other hand, the important relations established between Haiti's new leaders and Latin American would-be revolutionaries such as Simón Bolívar.17 Both of these topics illustrate the circulation of ideas and of people in the period, and the way events in one colonial empire reverberated in others.

U.S. Foreign Policy in Haiti/American Imperialism and Haiti/Black Atlantic

     Though colonialism is a core theme in modern world history, many surveys emphasize European imperialism while offering little about U.S. imperialism. Although the American empire was certainly smaller than the British, Americans were as eager as Europeans to exploit resources in other countries and to create zones favorable to their trade. Haiti is a prime example of American efforts to intervene in the Caribbean and Latin America during the golden age of the modern imperial state (approximately 1870–1914). For example, U.S. merchants and diplomats were often implicated in the intrigues that brought about regime change in Haiti, in the hopes of putting in power leaders who would be favorable to U.S. banks and merchants. One excellent text to assign on the subject is the speech given by Frederick Douglass (who had served as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti from 18891891) at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Douglass lamented that Haiti could be a prosperous country if only we ceased fostering discord there; he noted that "men in high American quarters have boasted to me of their ability to start a revolution in Haiti at pleasure."18 Douglass' speech also illustrates how African-American attitudes towards Haiti often differed from those of whites; from Haitian independence through the Harlem Renaissance and beyond, African-Americans generally saw an independent black state as an inspiration rather than a threat. Douglass' speech also illustrates the persistence of connections between different African-descended communities in the Americas (the "black Atlantic") into the modern era.

     Instructors teaching about modern imperialism can also draw upon a wealth of available material on the U.S. occupation of Haiti, which lasted from the Wilson Administration through to the start of Franklin Roosevelt's Administration (1915–1934). One lively and helpful narrative on the occupation can be found in Brenda Plummer's book Haiti and the United States: The Psychological Moment. In addition, many English-language writings from the time are available on the internet. These include a 1920 report, commissioned by the NAACP and published in The Nation, by the African-American diplomat and writer James Weldon Johnson. Where President Wilson had said that the U.S. was entering Haiti on humanitarian grounds and to maintain order there, Johnson and others viewed U.S. motives much more critically. Johnson complained that the United States had "sandbagg[ed]" a "friendly and inoffensive neighbor," and that economic motives drove the U.S. presence. Haitians had been slaughtered as a result: "To understand why… some three thousand Haitian men, women and children have been shot down by American rifles and machine guns, it is necessary to know. . . that the National City Bank of New York is very much interested in Haiti. It is necessary to know that the National City Bank of New York controls the National Bank of Haiti…."19

Haitian Earthquake of 2010

     The earthquake of 2010, whose destruction was unparalleled even in a country accustomed to dealing with tragedy, can be integrated into the world history survey to dissect many important issues. For one thing, the quake helps students understand the complex relationships between humans and nature, and how "natural" disasters have varying effects depending on land-use strategies. Earthquakes affect the western (Haitian) side of Hispaniola far more than the eastern (Dominican) side, because the French colonizers clear-cut more forest to make room for sugar plantations than did the Spanish; the absence of deep tree roots has allowed earthquakes to reverberate more intensely.20 Chaotic urbanization in Port-au-Prince in recent decades also magnified the quake's effects.21 In addition, the extensive media coverage of the earthquake makes it possible to remind students that history is a collection of human stories; tragedies involving mind-blowing casualty numbers are better understood when their effects are translated to human scale. Tracing the earthquake's impact on individual lives has been made easier by the numerous repositories of interviews with survivors that have been posted online and translated into English.22 Students can also be reminded that TV pundits do not necessarily possess deep historical knowledge. They can be encouraged to find reporting on the quake on Youtube or other internet sites (including PBS's Frontline documentaries on the quake), and to analyze it critically in light of their readings on Haiti's longer-term history.23 Finally, the earthquake allows students to consider what kind of development is best for reconstructing a country like Haiti, and whether globalization and foreign-owned factories represent signs of progress, or can cause more harm to a nation's self-sufficiency.24 ­

     There are numerous other ways in which Haiti can be integrated into the world history survey. As part of exploring world religions, for instance, instructors can present the misunderstood religion of Haitian Vodou (called voodoo in foreign caricatures) and help students understand its complex history; on the topic of world music, they can integrate the sacred music of Haitian Vodou and other Haitian musical forms.25 As they teach the Cold War, instructors can point to the example of the Duvalier regime in Haiti, to show how the American policy of supporting anyone who was anti-Communist could have perverse effects, like helping to keep brutal dictators in power.26 Concerning modern efforts at globalizing the world economy, instructors can point to the paradoxical results of international development aid, and how it sometimes increases, rather than alleviating, poverty. For instance, Paul Farmer has written about the effects of the Péligre Dam in central Haiti, which aimed to produce hydroelectric power for industrial use in Port-au-Prince. Loans for the project, totaling $40 million, came from the U.S.-based Import-Export Bank; construction monies went to foreign firms such as Brown & Root. For Haitians who had lived in the region where the dam was built, the project's results were disastrous; the dam permanently submerged their land, turning them into landless refugees who were never compensated for their losses.27 Women's experiences in Haiti in the late twentieth century can also be explored by students, on topics ranging from sexual violence to women's role in social movements.28

     All of these topics indicate that Haiti is an ideal case study for exploring core world history themes. In 1990, Michel-Rolph Trouillot argued in his essay "The Odd and the Ordinary: Haiti, the Caribbean and the World" that foreigners have long treated Haiti as an "unexplainable" country, set apart from history's normal workings.29 These new resources demonstrate that Haiti is not an exception outside history but rather an exemplar of numerous world history processes.

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in History at California State UniversitySan Marcos. She is the author of The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution: The Making of Modern Universalism (University of California Press, 2005) and Haitian History: New Perspectives (Routledge, 2013). She can be reached at


1 Franklin Knight, "The Haitian Revolution," American Historical Review 105, no. 1 (2000): 1035; and Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004), 7.

2See David Geggus, "Saint-Domingue on the Eve of the Haitian Revolution," in David P. Geggus and Norman Fiering, eds., The World of the Haitian Revolution (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 3.

3Ludwell Lee Montague, Haiti and the United States, 1714–1938 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1940), 2930.

4King Ferdinand, "Letter to the Tainos," reprinted in Charles Arthur and J. Michael Dash, eds., Libète: A Haiti Anthology (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1999), 223; Fick, The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990), 15–75 (excerpted in Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, Haitian History: New Perspectives[New York/London: Routledge, 2013]). Libète also contains several other useful excerpts on colonial Saint-Domingue (1735). See also the helpful overview of the period in Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus, Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789–1804: A Brief History with Documents (New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martins, 2006), 718. Dubois and Garrigus also include an excerpt from Moreau de Saint-Méry's taxonomy (57–62). A longer version of this work is available as M. L. E. Moreau de Saint-Méry, A Civilization That Perished: The Last Years of White Colonial Rule in Haiti, trans., abridged and edited by Ivor D. Spencer (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985) (I have experimented with different excerpts drawn from pp. 14 – 89).

5See William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spielvogel, World History, 7th ed. (Boston: Wadsworth Cengage, 2013), vol. II: 616; Robert W. Strayer, Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011), II: 788; Felipe Fernández-Armesto, The World: A History, Vol. Two (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010), 827. For some exceptions, see Robert L. Tignor, Jeremy Adelman, Stephen Aron, Stephen Kotkin, Suzanne Marchand, Gyan Prakash, and Michael Tsin, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World, 3rd ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2011), and Richard W. Bulliet, Pamela Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson and David Northrup, The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, 5th ed. (Boston: Wadsworth Cengage, 2011). Like most texts, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart speaks of Saint-Domingue's slaves and free people of color as having been inspired by French slogans of "liberty, equality and fraternity"; however, the authors also acknowledge that "given that most of the slaves had arrived from Africa very recently, African cultural and political ideals also fueled slave resistance" (II: 575). Similarly, instead of arguing that slaves borrowed the idea for their uprising from French revolutionaries, The Earth and Its Peoples notes only that "news and rumors about revolutionary events in France had helped move[my emphasis] the island's slave community to rebel." (581) The Earth and Its Peoples also acknowledges longstanding anger among slaves about their condition, with the French Revolution simply providing a moment in which a revolt could have a greater chance of success: "Given the slaves' hatred of the brutal regime that oppressed them….there was no way to limit the violence once the control of the slave owners slipped" (II: 599). John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Roger B. Bech, Clare Haru Crowston, and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, A History of World Societies, 8th ed. (Boston: Cengage, 2009) also makes a more sustained effort to reflect recent historiography on the Haitian Revolution than many other textbooks do (6267, 632, 7824).

6See C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins; Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, 2d ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), ix, 73, 152.

7 Jean Fouchard, The Haitian Maroons: Liberty or Death (New York: E.W. Blyden Press, 1981); Fick, The Making of Haiti. For a more skeptical view of the extent of slave resistance pre-1791, see Geggus, "Saint-Domingue on the Eve of the Haitian Revolution" [version with updated data available in Sepinwall, Haitian History], which would be ideal to pair with Fick in more advanced classes.

8John K. Thornton, "'I am the Subject of the King of Congo': African Political Ideology and the Haitian Revolution," Journal of World History 4, no. 2 (Fall 1993): 181–214, quote on 186 [excerpt available in Sepinwall, Haitian History]; idem, "African Soldiers in the Haitian Revolution." Journal of Caribbean History 25, nos. 1 and 2 (1991): 59–80.

9 George F. Tyson, ed., Toussaint L'Ouverture (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973); Toussaint Louverture, The Haitian Revolution, ed. by Nick Nesbitt, intro. by Jean-Bertrand Aristide (London/New York: Verso, 2008); Dubois and Garrigus, eds., Slave Revolution in the Caribbean.

10 Jeremy D. Popkin, ed., Facing Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

11See David Geggus, "The Haitian Revolution," in Haitian Revolutionary Studies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 529; Geggus, "The Haitian Revolution in Atlantic Perspective," in Nicholas P. Canny and Philip D. Morgan, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World, c.1450c.1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 533–549; Dubois and Garrigus, Slave Revolution in the Caribbean: 1840; Dubois, Avengers of the New World; and Jeremy D. Popkin, A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). See also Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall, "Atlantic Revolutions" in the Encyclopedia of the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008): I: 284–289, for an overview of how the Haitian Revolution compares to other revolutions of the era. See also the PBS documentary Égalité for All on Toussaint Louverture (available for purchase with companion guide at

12Haitian Constitution of 1805, at; see also Baron Pompée-Valentin de Vastey, An Essay on the Causes of the Revolution and Civil Wars of Hayti… Exeter: Western Luminary Office, 1823 (reprint editions from 2007 and 2010 available from Nabu Press and Kessinger Publishing).

13See Mimi Sheller, "Sword-Bearing Citizens: Militarism and Manhood in Nineteenth-Century Haiti," Plantation Society in the Americas 4, nos. 2 and 3 (Fall 1997): 233–278 [excerpted in Sepinwall, Haitian History]; and Sepinwall, "Exporting the Revolution: Grégoire, Haiti, and the Colonial Laboratory, 18151827," in Jeremy D. Popkin and Richard H. Popkin, eds., The Abbé Grégoire and His World (Dordrecht, Neth.: Kluwer Academic Press, 2000), 41–69.

14Laurent Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2012). See also David Nicholls, From Dessalines to Duvalier: Race, Colour and National Independence in Haiti (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), which has excellent detail but probably too much for world-history classroom use.

15 For an overview of these debates and of other scholarship that can be used to explore the U.S. reaction to the Haitian Revolution, see Sepinwall, "The Specter of Saint-Domingue: American and French Reactions to the Haitian Revolution," in Geggus and Fiering, eds., The World of the Haitian Revolution, 317–338, and the bibliography of English language primary sources in Sepinwall, "La révolution haïtienne et les États-Unis: étude historiographique," in Yves Benot and Marcel Dorigny, eds., 1802. Rétablissement de l'esclavage dans les colonies françaises: Aux origines de Haïti (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2003), 387–401. Sepinwall, Haitian History, also includes an excerpt from one of the best recent articles on the U.S. reaction to the Haitian Revolution, Ashli White's "The Politics of 'French Negroes' in the United States."

16Montague, 534; see also Rayford W. Logan, The Diplomatic Relations of the United States With Haiti, 1778–1841 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1941).

17See for instance the articles by Matt D. Childs, Juan R. González Mendoza, Aline Helg and Marixa Lasso in David P. Geggus, ed., The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2001); and those by Ada Ferrer and by João José Reis and Flávio dos Santos Gomes in Geggus and Fiering, eds., The World of the Haitian Revolution. Sepinwall, Haitian History: New Perspectives also includes an essay by Ferrer on the Cuban reaction to the Revolution. On Bolívar and Haiti, see for instance David Bushnell and Lester D. Langley, eds., Simón Bolívar: Essays on the Life and Legacy of the Liberator (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), esp. the articles by Judith Ewell and David Bushnell.

18Frederick Douglass, Lecture on Haiti (1893), full text at An excerpt from this speech is reprinted in Maurice Jackson and Jacqueline Bacon, eds., African Americans and the Haitian Revolution: Selected Essays and Historical Documents (New York: Routledge, 2010), 202–211; this text also includes many other primary and secondary sources on African-American relations with Haiti, including the African-American emigration movements to Haiti. One of the best articles on this topic, Leslie Alexander's "'The Black Republic': The Influence of the Haitian Revolution on Northern Black Political Consciousness, 18161862," is excerpted in Sepinwall, Haitian History.

19See Brenda Plummer, Haiti and the United States: The Psychological Moment (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992), ch. 6 [excerpt available in Sepinwall, Haitian History]; and James Weldon Johnson, Self-Determining Haiti: Four Articles Reprinted from The Nation Embodying a Report … Made for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (New York: The Nation, 1920) [available at]. See also primary sources on the occupation available in Arthur and Dash, eds., Libète: A Haiti Anthology, 220–225 (including a translated document by Charlemagne Péralte, the leader of the Haitian resistance against the Americans).

20 On other Haitian land-use policies that have magnified the effects of natural disasters, see Jared M. Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York: Viking, 2005), ch. 11. Diamond has attracted criticism for depicting Haitians as "choosing to fail" (for instance, blaming the Haitian Revolution for destroying land rather than the French colonial policies that cleared forests). However, new work by Crystal Felima and Jean-François Mouhot, while more nuanced and historically sensitive than Diamond's, concurs that human choices have worsened the impact of natural disasters in Haiti. See Crystal A. Felima, "Haiti's Disproportionate Casualties after Environmental Disasters: Analyzing Human Vulnerabilities and the Impacts of Natural Hazards," Journal of Haitian Studies 15, nos. 1 and 2 (2009): 6–28; and Jean-François Mouhot, "The Tragic Annals of Haiti," History Today 60, no. 4 (2010): 34.

21See for instance Paul Farmer, Haiti After the Earthquake (New York: PublicAffairs, 2011), 978; and Évelyne Trouillot, "Eternity Lasted Less Than Sixty Seconds…" in Martin Munro, ed., Haiti Rising: Haitian History, Culture and the Earthquake of 2010 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010), 55–9 [reprinted in Sepinwall, Haitian History]. Instructors can link this issue to chaotic urbanization more globally; see for instance UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "USAID urged to tackle urbanization" (March 2010),

22See for instance Haiti Memory Project (; Koze Ayiti (; Black Public Media Haiti Project (; and the films made by young Haitians as part of the Tele Geto project (for example at Instructors might also read Toni Pressley-Sanon, "Lucid Cameras: Imagining Haiti After the Earthquake of 2010," Journal of Haitian Studies 17, no. 2 (Fall 2011): 6–32, to think about how to teach students to critique foreign reporting on Haiti.

23The New York Times has a series of reports on Haiti available at; those from other news stations can be found through individual searches. Two PBS documentaries on Haiti are available on line: Frontline: The Quake ( and Frontline: The Battle for Haiti ( While both films include valuable footage and interviews, their historical commentary leaves much to be desired, as some of the comments on the programs' websites indicate. The valorization of factories as the answer to reconstructing Haiti, for instance, diverges from much of recent scholarship, which has emphasized the drawbacks of the "sweatshop economy" in Haiti. See for instance the film Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy (2009, dir. Renée Bergan and Mark Schuller;; "Life in the Factory," in Marie M. B. Racine, ed., Like the Dew that Waters the Grass : Words from Haitian Women (Washington, DC: Epica, 1999), 98–101; and Alex Dupuy, "Disaster Capitalism to the Rescue: The International Community and Haiti After the Earthquake," NACLA Report on the Americas, July 1, 2010, pp. 14 – 19, excerpted as Dupuy, "The Neoliberal Legacy in Haiti," in Tectonic Shifts : Haiti Since the Earthquake, ed. Mark Schuller and Pablo Morales (Sterling, VA: Kumarian Press, 2012), 23–27. See also Deborah Sontag's reporting in the New York Times in July 2012 on an effort to build a South Korean garment factory in an environmentally sensitive area of Haiti ( and

24See especially Munro, ed., Haiti Rising; Farmer, Haiti After the Earthquake; Schuller and Morales, eds., Tectonic Shifts; Jorge Heine and Andrew S. Thompson, eds., Fixing Haiti : MINUSTAH and Beyond (Tokyo/New York: United Nations University Press, 2011); and the March 2011 special issue of the Journal of Black Studies on the earthquake. See also Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson, "Haiti Can Be Rich Again," New York Times (January 9, 2012), p. A19 (; and the ideas in Reginald Dumas, "Haiti at the Intersection of the World: Tapping the Past, Facing the Future," Journal of Haitian Studies 17, no. 2 (Fall 2011), 14044.

25See for instance the helpful overview of Vodou in Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti: The Breached Citadel, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press, 2004), 21–36; as well as the short essay by noted Haitian dancer and Vodou adherent Florencia Pierre, "The Cultural Soul," in Beverly Bell, ed., Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), 86–89. See also the superb compilation albums Rhythms of Rapture: Sacred Musics of Haitian Vodou (Smithsonian Folkways, 1995) and Angels in the Mirror: Vodou Music of Haiti (Ellipsis Arts, 1997). Rhythms of Rapture contains a wonderful series of liner notes on Vodou and on Vodou music, edited by noted scholar Elizabeth McAlister; they are available online at, and could easily be assigned to students. Further resources on Haitian music are listed in Sepinwall, Haitian History, 8n9; see also the 2012 PBS documentary When the Drum Is Beating (dir. Whitney Dow,

26On American support for the Duvaliers, see for example Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti: The Breached Citadel, excerpted in Sepinwall, Haitian History. Students can also use online databases to explore how American media in the 1950s and 1960s portrayed the Duvaliers. Instructors might also show the film Haiti: Land of Tragedy, Land of Hope (2004, dir. Antoine Leonard-Maestrati), which offers an excellent overview of Haitian history from French colonial times to the Aristide regime, including interviews with Haiti's leading historians.

27See the works of Paul Farmer, including AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992; excerpted in Sepinwall, Haitian History). For an overview of how development efforts can lead to poverty, see also Sepinwall, Interview with Chicago Public Radio, "Worldview," Jan. 27, 2010 (available at

28See the translated documents in Racine, ed., Like the Dew that Waters the Grass; Bell, Walking on Fire; and Poto Mitan. On women in the 2010 earthquake, see also Schuller and Morales, eds., Tectonic Shifts, 151 –169.

29Trouillot, "The Odd and the Ordinary: Haiti, the Caribbean and the World," Cimarrón 2, no. 3 (1990): 3–12.


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