Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Haitian Revolution and other Information.

Before the Haitian Revolution, black people in Haiti were suffering tons of injustices. European imperialists demanded sugar. Plantation owners in Haiti traded sugar for European and North American manufactured goods. Back then, Haiti was called Saint Domingue by the French. Haiti had extensive coffee, cocoa, and indigo plantations. Yet, these were less profitable than wealthy sugar plantations. By the 1730’s, French engineers created complex irrigation system to grow sugarcane production. By the 1740’s, Saint-Domingue together with Jamaica, had become the main supplier of the world’s sugar. More African slaves were used to produce sugar and slaves were heavily brutalized in the Haitian colonial plantation economy. Haiti was the most profitable French colony in the world. There was an average of 600 ships engaged every year in shipping products from Saint-Domingue to Bordeaux (in France). The value of Saint-Domingue’s goods almost equal in value to all of the products shipped from the British 13 colonies to Great Britain. France depended heavily on the crops of coffee, indigo, and sugar from Saint Domingue. 1 million people lived in Haiti back then and 25 million people lived in the Kingdom of France in 1789. Many people died of malaria and yellow fever. The French in 1787 imported 38,000 slaves to all of their Caribbean colonies. The death rate from yellow fever was such that at least 50% of the slaves imported from Africa died within a year of arriving, and as such the slave owners preferred to work theslaves as hard as possible while providing with them with the barest minimum of food and shelter, calculating that it was better to get the most work out of their slaves with lowest possible expense possible since they were probably going to die of yellow fever anyway. Many slaves did polyandry (or one woman married to many men) because the death rate of slaves were so high. Slaves were denied human rights. Slave owners regularly raped black women in Haiti back then. That was evil and wrong. Africans outnumbered white planters more than ten to one. The planters feared slave rebellion.

The French slave owners were very cruel against slaves. White slave owners used physical violence. Slaves were whipped for resisting. Some were burned and castrated. They did these things to warn other slaves too.  Louis XIV, the French King, passed the Code Noir in 1685 in an attempt to regulate such violence and the treatment of the enslaved person in general in the colony, but slave-owners openly and consistently broke the code, and local legislation reversed parts of it throughout the 18th century. Coir Noir is a disgrace since slavery should be banned outright not regulated. In 1758, white landowners passed legislation to restrict the rights of other people until a rigid caste system was instituted. Most historians defined the caste system into 3 groups. One was the white colonists (blancs). This group was subdivided into plantation owners and a lower class of whites, who were overseers or day laborers. The second group was the free black people (usually biracial or multiracial. They were the gens de couleur libres, free people of color). The gens de couleur had education experience, were literate, and many were in the army. Some were even administrators on plantations. Many of them were children of white planters and enslaved mothers (so, these mothers were raped) while others had purchased their freedom from slave owners (from the sale of their own produce or artistic works). Many of them had artisan training. Some of them inherited freedom or property from their fathers. Some gens de couleur even operated their own plantations and were slave owners. The third group was the largest group in Haiti. They were the mostly black African born slaves.

A high rate of mortality among them meant that planters continually had to import new slaves. This kept their culture (of the Africans) more African and separate from other people on the island. Many plantations had large concentrations of slaves from a particular region of Africa, and it was therefore somewhat easier for these groups to maintain elements of their culture, religion, and language. This also separated new slaves from Africa from creoles (slaves born in the colony), who already had kin networks and often had more prestigious roles on plantations and more opportunities for emancipation. Most slaves spoke a patois of the French language known as Creole, which was also used by native biracial people and whites for communication with the workers. The majority of the slaves were Yoruba from what is now modern Nigeria, Fon from what is now Benin and from the Kingdom of Kongo in what now modern northern Angola and the western Congo. The Kongolese at 40% were the largest of the African ethnic groups represented amongst the slaves. The slaves developed their own religion, a synesthetic mixture of Roman Catholicism and West African religions known as Vodou, usually called voodoo in English, which provided the slaves with their own belief system that implicitly rejected their status as slaves. There were conflicts violently between white colonists and black slaves. There was hatred around, because black people were very much brutally oppressed by criminals.   The French historian Paul Fregosi wrote: "Whites, mulattos and blacks loathed each other. The poor whites couldn't stand the rich whites, the rich whites despised the poor whites, the middle class whites were jealous of the aristocratic whites, the whites born in France looked down upon the locally born whites, mulattoes envied the whites, despised the blacks and were despised by the whites; free Negroes brutalized those who were still slaves, Haitian born blacks regarded those from Africa as savages. Everyone-quite rightly-lived in terror of everyone else...Haiti was hell, but Haiti was rich." To correct Paul, not every Haitian born black person regarded those from Africa as savages. Many Africans worked together to fight tyranny.

So, I want to make that perfectly clear. Africans are the first humans on this Earth. African peoples are strong and Africa is Beautiful as Black is Beautiful. Many of these conflicts involved slaves who had escaped the plantations. Many runaway slaves—called Maroons—hid on the margins of large plantations, living off the land and what they could get from their former slave owners. Others fled to towns, to blend in with urban slaves and freed slaves who often concentrated in those areas. If caught, these runaway slaves would be severely and violently punished. However, some brutal owners tolerated petit marronages, or short-term absences from plantations. Larger groups of runaway slaves lived in the woods away from control. They often used violent raids on the island’s sugar and coffee plantation. There were thousands of these groups. One maroon leader who was effect was the charismatic Fran├žois Mackandal, who succeeded in unifying the black resistance. A Haitian Vodou priest, Mackandal inspired his people by drawing on African traditions and religions. He united the maroon bands and also established a network of secret organizations among plantation slaves, leading a rebellion from 1751 through 1757. Although Mackandal was captured by the French and burned at the stake in 1758, large armed maroon bands persisted in raids and harassment after his death.

Virginia is home to a lot of civil rights history. I was born and raised in Virginia. I'm a black Southerner and my parents experienced Jim Crow oppression for real. So, I know a lot of the Civil War history and the history of the civil rights movement in America. One civil rights hero from Virginia was Dorothy Hamm. Dorothy Hamm was a civil rights and community activist in Arlington and Caroline Counties. Those areas are in Northern Virginia. She and her son, Edward Leslie Hamm Jr., joined a civil action case in 1956 that sought to end segregation in Arlington schools. She and her husband challenged the evil poll tax too back during the 1960's. Hamm was politically active, serving as delegate to Arlington County and state conventions in 1964. She worked with CORE and she was part of the Poor People's Campaign in 1968. The Poor People's Campaign was about demanding that the federal government address poverty in American society. Her legacy is etched in stone as part of the long human rights movement for social change. There is a director (John Ridley) who intentionally erased the role of black women in the Black freedom struggle in the UK. I have no respect for that. Also, it is also important to show the truth about the many black women and black men involved in the UK black freedom struggle too. This is a perfect time to show that information. In the near future, I'm going to research more history about the UK and I'm going to show more information about this subject. Olive Morris was a black woman who worked in the Black Power movement and she defended housing rights (in the UK). Claudia Jones in the 1950’s and in the 1960’s fought for the human rights of black people. She was a friend of Paul Robeson and she knew Dr. King. Claudia Jones was ahead of her time and Malcolm X praised her too. Claudia Jones believed in racial justice, economic justice, and gender equality. Beverley Brown and Janet Davis worked in Black Power and Black Panther organizations in the UK. Jacqueline Nassy Brown, Tanisha Ford and Kennetta Perry are Black women scholars who lived in that time period too. Althea Jones Lecointe and Barbara Beese were black women leaders back then too. So, we will always honor black women.

By Timothy

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