In August 1791, enslaved Africans on the northern plain of Saint Domingue (colonial Haiti) rose up in a coordinated attack against their French colonial masters and plantation overseers, launching the initial revolt in what would come to be known as the Haitian Revolution. In the years that followed, their actions forced the legal abolition of racial discrimination, and then the abolition of slavery, throughout the French Empire. Ultimately, when Napoleon Bonaparte threatened to return slavery to Saint Domingue, they waged a war for independence. After defeating the Napoleonic army, these former slaves then declared the world’s first “Black Republic,” the independent state of Haiti, in 1804. This seminar will examine some of the major themes and debates surrounding Haiti’s colonial and revolutionary history. We will begin by considering the colonial paradox: France’s leading role in the intellectual movement called the “Enlightenment” coincided with its ascent as a slaveholding colonial power. The seminar will also explore parallels and points of connection between the revolutionary movements in France and Saint Domingue. When the Haitian Revolution began in 1791, the French Revolution was already two years old: how did the increasingly radical ideas and widespread violence in France shape events in the Caribbean? Likewise, how did west African traditions and political ideologies influence insurgents? And how, in turn, did the revolution in Saint Domingue impact the revolution in France? From a diplomatic perspective, we will also consider relations between the Haitian Revolutionary leadership and French officials, examining their respective goals, which overlapped and diverged at different moments. Finally, we will ask how the revolution in Saint Domingue—and the birth of Haiti--impacted ideas about liberty, sovereignty and freedom throughout the Atlantic world. We will read a combination of primary and secondary materials each week. Students are encouraged to read primary documents in the original French if they are able. A final research paper will be required of all students, drawing on the Kislak Center’s rich collection of revolutionary-era documents.
Day and Time: 
W 0200PM-0500PM
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