The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)—a thirteen-year series of slave revolts and military strikes— resulted in the abolition of slavery in the French colony of Saint-Domingue in 1793 and its subsequent independence and rebirth in January 1804 as Haiti, the first independent and slavery-free nation of the American hemisphere. Haitian independence remains the most significant development in the history of modern democracy. The theories undergirding it – that no human beings could ever be enslaved – continue to define contemporary political ideas about what it means to be free. But in the early 19th century, Haiti was the only example in the Americas of a nation populated primarily by former enslaved Africans who had become free and independent. Other nations, including France, England, and the US, were determined to prevent abolition and their colonies from becoming free and thus refused to recognize Haitian sovereignty. While still one of the least well-known events in modern history, this seminar explores the global repercussions of Haiti’s revolution for freedom.
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