Alright guys, time for a history lesson. This is important. I truly believe the only way to truly appreciate Haiti and see it for all it’s glorious beauty is to understand it’s intricate history. Prior to leaving the US, at the recommendation of my brilliant cousin Brian, I purchased a book called, The Black Jacobins. It is a book written by C.L.R James that examines the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1803. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find accurate dipictions on the events that took place and there aren’t history books lying around on the Haitian Revolution. So this book is as good as it gets. It is exceptional. On January 1st 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, an African-born ex-slave declared Haiti independent making Haiti the first black republic in the world and the first country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery completely. THIS IS HUGE. The tiny country of Haiti largely inhabited by illiterate and dehumanized slaves accomplished so much in just 12 years. Throughout the book, the author approaches the revolution by analyzing revolutionary potential and progress according to economic and class lines, rather than racial distinctions. It speaks of the conditions the slaves endured and how economic and class lines could allow one barely literate slave to lead a revolution. There were times the book had me in tears, it paints a vivid picture to the lives the slaves lived.
The Black Jacobins also focuses on Toussaint L’Ouverture as the revolutionary leader. He kind of reminds me of Obama. He is thought to have united the revolutionary forces and lead the slaves in numerous battles. His influence, as well as that of the French Revolution, is the main focus of the book. He spearheads the revolution nearly to the end when he is captured and imprisoned in France (where he would eventually die), and then some of his most powerful generals, Moise and Dessalines, complete the revolution.
So sure when you see Haiti, if you so choose, you can just see poverty and need everywhere you look. But if you look closely through the lens of history you can also see strength, resilience, and empowerment.