Recently I have been reading about the history of Haiti, and thought I would share a little with you all. (I will share links to the informative websites at the end.)
Haiti shares the western half of the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is the world’s first Black republic, and it is the only nation to be born of a successful slave rebellion.
In December of 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola in and claimed it for the Spanish crown. He called it, “La Isla Espanola,” which was later shortened to Hispaniola. The island was inhabited by local Arawak Indians, who called their land, “Ayti,” meaning mountainous land.
European colonizers forced the native people to work for them—producing sugar, rum, cotton, and coffee for export. The Arawaks were so terribly treated, that they were brought to near extinction.
The location of Haiti, as well as its rich soil, made it a highly sought-after place.
In 1697, Spain surrendered the western third of Hispaniola to the French, creating the territory of St. Domingue. The French plantation owners needed to replace the diminished slave population, and began exporting West African slaves by the tens of thousands. At the height of slavery, the African slave population reached upwards of 500,000, more than 10,000 slaves for each plantation owner.
Over the next one hundred years, the French developed St. Domingue into the most valued colony in the New World. The value of exports from St. Domingue alone far surpassed the combined exports from all thirteen English colonies in North America.
In August of 1791, after generations of abuse, the slaves of St. Domingue rose up against their captors under the leadership of the Jamaican born, voodoo priest Boukman. The slave army was led by General Toussaint Louverture, who was later betrayed by the French and died in prison. The war culminated in the ultimate defeat of the Napoleonic Army at the battle of Vertières in November of 1803.
On January 1, 1804, under the command of General Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti declared its independence from the French. The colony of Saint Domingue took back its original Arawak name, “Ayiti,” and Dessalines was crowned Emperor Jacques I.