Haiti’s revolution in 1804
According to Teresa Meade, the revolt in Saint-Domingue -- modernly known as Haiti -- "should hold a more central place in because its importance to the narrative of independence in the Americas is indisputable" (Meade 63). Not only was it the lone successful slave rebellion in Latin American history, but its abuse at the hands of colonial and U.S. powers demonstrates "the prevailing hypocrisy of the white elites' notion of sovereignty for the slaveholders, but not for the slaves" (Meade 63).
Before the revolt occurred, Saint-Domingue was the largest sugar producer in the Americas. The labor was performed by African slaves while the grands blancs (French whites with all the sugar power) and the petits blancs (whites in political office and entrepreneurs) maintained a brutal system of slavery.
The rebellion kicked off in 1791 and was led by a Voodoo priest named Boukman. Soon, the slaves were mobilized into a military force, with Toussaint L'Overture at the head. In 1794, the rebellion was successful and L'Overture began trying to restart the plantations so the island could maintain its wealth.
As stated by Meade, "probably no other action more belied racial and class solidarity than the duplicity of the imperial powers' alliance with France" (Meade 65). Britain, who had sided with France during the revolt, remained on France's side afterwards despite Napoleon. Many U.S. leaders,such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washingtonalso, voiced support of France, .
Haiti was betrayed by the French when they sent 20,000 soldiers back to the island to reinstall slavery. The nearly two year guerrilla war that followed left Haiti devastated, despite France's eventual defeat. Many nations, including the U.S., refused to trade with Haiti afterward and Haiti agreed to pay off a massive "debt" to the French for the damage inflicted by the rebellion. In debt, suffering great loss of life, and agriculturally ruined, Haiti had a difficult time trying to get on its feet. The uniting of colonial and U.S. forces against Haiti during and after the revolt reveals, as Meade writes, their "hypocrisy" that their ideal of Enlightenment did not extend to those of color. Even today, Haiti is still incredibly impoverished, largely as a result of this lack of support.