African Americans and the Haitian Revolution


Book Explores Impact of Haitian Revolution
Scholars have long recognized the Haitian Revolution as a defining event for African Americans. But Maurice Jackson, associate professor of history and African American studies, has co-edited a book that draws together the Haitian Revolution’s impact on African Americans — exploring inspiration and influence on black nationalism, abolitionism, black socialist and revolutionary thought and Pan-Africanism.

The book, “African Americans and the Haitian Revolution” (Routledge, 2010), uses a collection of scholarly essays and primary texts to showcase recent scholarship written by African Americans about the Haitian Revolution, which led to the end of slavery and established Haiti as the first republic ruled by blacks in the Western Hemisphere.

“From the time of the Haitian Revolution to today, this singular and momentous event has had a profound influence on the development of African American history, culture, and political thought,” writes Jackson and co-editor Jacqueline Bacon, an independent scholar in San Diego whose works include “Freedom’s Journal: The First African American Newspaper.”

Rather than being about the revolution itself, this collection attempts to show how the events in Haiti served to galvanize African Americans to think about themselves and to act in accordance with their beliefs, and contributes to the study of African Americans in the wider Atlantic World.

In the book’s ninth essay, “No Man Could Hinder Him,” Jackson explores the revolution and one of its leaders, Toussaint L’ouverture.

“Through remembrances of the revolution, the image of Toussaint passed through the prism of rebellions and, during the 20th century, its aura seeped through — subtly with (Duke) Ellington and more openly with (Charles) Mingus,” writes Jackson. “All these tributes have been embellished in the culture of African Americans, and their literature, poetry, folklore, street talk and music continue to echo with the voice of Toussaint and his compatriots.”

“The chapters and documents presented in this edited volume deliver the goods in rich abundance as promised in its title, through deeply probing exploration of important connections between people of African descent in the United States of America and the history and legacy of the Haitian Revolution,” says David Barry Gaspar, professor history at Duke University and author of “A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean” (Indiana University Press, 2003).

(December 17, 2009)

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