By MURPHY BROWNE
Old pirates, yes, they rob I; sold I to the merchant ships.
Minutes after they took I from the bottomless pit.
But my hand was made strong by the hand of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation. Triumphantly!
Won’t you help to sing another song of freedom
‘Cause all I ever have: Redemption songs; Redemption songs.
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy, ’cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it; we’ve got to fulfill the book.
From Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ released in 1980 on the album Uprising.
Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ speaks to the history of the descendants of enslaved Africans including the Haitians who are reeling from the devastating effects of the earthquake of January 12.
The Africans who were taken to what was then Sainte Domingue by the French beginning in the early 1600s, were kidnapped from various nations including Ashanti, Igbo, Mandingo and Yoruba.
Africans from these nations were taken to colonies owned by other Europeans which meant that Africans enslaved by the British, French, Spanish, etc., shared kinship, so it is not surprising that Boukman who was born in Jamaica which had been colonized by the Spanish, followed by the British, became a leader in the Haitian Revolution.
In Haiti: the Breached Citadel, published in 1990, Patrick Bellegarde-Smith writes: “The Vodun ceremony of Bois-Caiman on August 14, 1791, conducted by Boukman Dutty and a female priest, was attended by 200 people and led to the general insurrection of August 22. Like his predecessor, Plymouth, Boukman had been born in Jamaica. After the death of Boukman, his principal lieutenants, Jean-Francois, Jeannot, Biassou and Toussaint L’Ouverture crossed into Spanish-held Santo Domingo to continue the struggle”.
Writing of the brutality to which the enslaved Africans were subjected by the plantation owners and their White employees, including overseers, Bellegarde-Smith noted: “At the bottom of the pyramid were the slaves who were continually being imported to make up for the high slave mortality rate and brutal efficiency of the plantation system. Between 1697 and 1791, the slave population of Sainte Domingue grew from 5,000 to about 500,000, a hundredfold increase. The fact that more than half of the slaves at the time of independence had been born in Africa indicates that ill treatment and early death of slaves were very common. From the moment of capture, the life expectancy of a slave was only seven years”.
The “brutal efficiency of the plantation system” to which Bellegarde-Smith refers led to the French colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti) becoming known as the “pearl of the Antilles.” At its height of production as a slave society, the free labour provided by enslaved Africans from Saint Domingue contributed to the extraordinary wealth of the French, especially the monarchy and aristocracy. The brutality of the White plantation owners also led to the enslaved Africans rising up and seizing their freedom.
The struggle for freedom on the island the liberated Africans renamed Haiti lasted several years. The Boukman-led rebellion where 50,000 enslaved Africans seized their freedom for a short while after killing 1,000 of their enslavers, was the beginning of the end of slavery in Sainte Domingue.
According to Bellegarde-Smith, “One-third of the 30,000 Whites in Saint-Domingue fled to the United States, where they settled permanently and later worked against an independent Haiti”.
The Africans continued to resist re-enslavement in spite of a Spanish invasion in 1792, a British invasion in 1793 and Napoleon sending a force of 86 ships carrying 22,000 French soldiers in 1802. Napoleon’s army was defeated but the leader of the Haitian revolution, Toussaint L’Ouverture, was captured through trickery and treachery. L’Ouverture was taken to France and imprisoned in the Jura Mountains where he transitioned on April 7, 1803. On May 18, 1803, the Haitian flag was created and on January 1, 1804, the Africans were finally free from chattel slavery. The Africans living in Haiti became the first group – and are the only group of formerly enslaved people – to successfully overthrow their enslavers and establish a republic.
Gaining their freedom from slavery did not free the Haitians from European oppression. The French demanded that the fledgling nation pay reparations for the loss of French property (the property being the Africans themselves.) The final payment of 60 million francs (estimated at $22 billion in modern U.S. currency) was made in 1922. This extortion, the cost of France recognizing Haiti as a nation, was supported by other European nations who also refused to recognize or trade with Haiti and has contributed to the impoverishment of the nation.
The government of the United States (a slave owning nation until January 1, 1865) also refused to recognize the new republic. Ironically, Haitian soldiers had contributed to the freedom of America in its fight against Britain during the American rebellion (1775-1783). Haitian soldiers took part in one of the bloodiest battles when Americans were fighting to be free of British rule.
More than 500 members of “Les Chasseurs Volontaires De Saint Domingue”, including a 12-year-old drummer boy named Henri Christophe who became one of the leaders of the Haitian Revolution and eventually ruler of Haiti, fought in the Battle of Savannah on October 9, 1779.
The ungrateful Americans invaded and occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, unleashing a reign of terror that incited Haitian resistance which was brutally suppressed. From its inception, the Haitian republic has had to deal with invasions and occupations by Europeans.
The recent devastating earthquake on January 12 has given European nations and the American government the perfect opportunity to once again invade and occupy under the guise of helping the Haitian people cope with this tragedy. In spite of the many biased reports in the White media, there are people on the ground in Haiti who have been observing and reporting the truth: