OPINION: Why Black America Owes Haiti A Debt of Gratitude

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Eleven years before his final defeat at Waterloo, nine years before his first “official” loss at Leipzig, and even eight years before a rather Pyrrhic victory against Russia, Napoleon got his clock cleaned halfway around the world by a bunch of wild, French-speaking former Africans.

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The year was 1804 and these Africans had been taken by the French as slaves to the isle of Hispaniola.

Now, why they don’t put this “L” on Napoleon’s record is anybody’s guess. Maybe they consider it an “amateur bout.”

In any event, on August 22nd, 1791, a Jamaican-born dude named Dutty Boukman who was a high priest of voodoo (I’m being serious) gave the call one night that it was on and poppin’. Almost from the start, the Africans were led by the brilliant Toussaint L’Ouverture who, while fighting all the time for the Africans, fought strategically alongside almost everybody else at one point or another, including the French. After L’Ouverture was betrayed and imprisoned in France where he eventually died, Jean-Jacques Dessalines took up his mantle and won the whole thing.

On January 1, 1804, Dessalines repped as the new leader under a constitution that was formed in 1801, making Haiti the first independent nation in Latin America, the first Black republic in the western hemisphere, and the only republic in history established as the result of a successful slave rebellion. The republic even took on the name ‘Haiti’ out of respect for the indigenous Arawak people that inhabited the land before everyone else arrived.

The effect that the Haitian revolution had on American slaves was similar to the effect that the Iowa Caucus had on the election of Barack Obama. Suddenly, we believed we could win.

The American slave rebellions of Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser all came after Haiti’s had started and only Prosser’s came before the Blacks in Haiti had actually won. There can be absolutely no doubt that smart Americans, watching our slave population grow in number, could project the possibility of what happened in Haiti ultimately happening here. It still took a Civil War to convince the idiots though.

So let’s say a prayer for the victims and survivors of yesterday’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti.

It is, after all, the least we can do.

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