HAITI: THE GREATEST TEACHER OF THEM ALL
Updated: Sep 18, 2021
Beyond the turpitudes of her foes, the history of Haiti is filled with hope, glory, valor, and valiance of a people who fought for freedom and liberty. Haiti’s misunderstood reality stems from her brutal past as a former French colony—A place where Black slaves led the only successful revolution in history, which on January 1st, 1804, gave birth to the first black republic in the world.
The history of the Haitian people is an unprecedented event that should be remembered and celebrated by lovers of freedom and liberty worldwide. Unfortunately, the world's view of Haiti has often been biased and misconstrued, as her major contributions to humanity are unknown to many. More often than not, the mainstream media tend to portray Haiti as a constantly unstable, poor, and pariah state. However, Haiti offers much more than the grim images constantly projected. The natural beauty of the country, its unique culture, and powerful history are often overlooked.
During his lecture about Haiti in Chicago on January 2nd, 1893, Frederick Douglas stated, “It is said of ancient nations, that each had its special mission in the world and that each taught the world some important lesson. The Jews taught the world a religion, a sublime conception of the Deity. The Greeks taught the world philosophy and beauty. The Romans taught the world jurisprudence. England is foremost among the modern nations in commerce and manufactures. Germany has taught the world to think, while the American Republic is giving the world an example of a Government by the people, of the people and for the people. Among these large bodies, the little community of Haiti, anchored in the Caribbean Sea, has had her mission in the world, and a mission which the world had much need to learn. She has taught the world the danger of slavery and the value of liberty. In this respect she has been the greatest of all our modern teachers.”
While the poverty and political instability are generally flagged like a desperate brand to describe Haiti, rare are those who dare to pose the million-dollar question: What is the root cause of Haiti’s systematic demise? Many have failed to understand that this tiny nation has become a sharp thorn in the side of the slave holding nations because of her stand that ended slavery in the former French colony of Saint Domingue (today’s Haiti). Those brave Black slaves fought and successfully defeated the Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, which was one of the most powerful armies at the time. That unprecedented and unexpected outcome sealed Haiti’s fate ever since. Haiti’s act of defiance toward and against the White colonialists had resulted into her being shunned by great powers such as: The United States, France, Spain, Great Britain, and Germany.
Haitian soldiers fought alongside the Americans during their war of independence. Also, the defeat of Bonaparte in Haiti had forced him to sale Louisiana—A purchase that doubled the size of the United States. However, despite Haiti’s great contributions to the U.S., they failed to recognize her as a sovereign and an independent nation. It is worth mentioning that in 1804, the year that Haiti declared her independence from France, slavery reigned on U.S. soil until its official abolition in 1865. Therefore, Haiti was perceived and considered as a menace to the American slave-based economy and the slavers’ lifestyle.
After she gained her independence and despite the fact that most countries refused to recognize and trade with her, the Haitian nation remained true to her ideals of liberty for all mankind. Therefore, Haiti opened her arms to the Latin American’s liberator, Simon Bolivar when no other nations dared to help him. Once Bolivar arrived in Haiti in December 1815, Haitian president, Alexandre Pétion provided him with shelter, money, and weapons, which enabled him to quell foreign dominance in many Latin American countries. To that extent, Haiti helped several countries to gain their independence including Bolivia, Equator, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Chile.
Astonishingly, Bolivar would later deny Haiti’s recognition as an independent and sovereign nation. Bolivar sided with slave-holding nations against Haiti that had provided him with needed and unparalleled help. This level of hypocrisy and betrayal is not foreign to Haiti, as such attitudes have marred the entire existence of this “Black” nation.
Over two hundred years ago, Haiti took her independence from France on the battle ground and through blood. The valiant Haitian soldiers fought and fulfilled the concept of freedom and human rights. They have abolished slavery and created a country where people were no longer considered as properties. The Haiti's epical advent occurred at a time when the world economy, particularly in the west, rested upon slavery. Therefore, Haiti was not welcomed in the concert of nations. Instead, she was cast aside and treated with disdain, fear, and mockery.
Where the powerful European nations and the United States failed, the small, yet great nation of Haiti made of freed slaves had fully implemented the notion of liberty for all human beings regardless of the color of their skin. It is understandable and judicious that Frederick Douglass called Haiti “the greatest teacher of them all.” Such a marvelous achievement should have been celebrated throughout the so called “civilized world.” But instead, Haiti was embargoed and vilified for the very ideals and values that those nations had professed to uphold.
As grandiose as the Haitian revolution was, that magical spring was short-lived. France imposed an indemnity to Haiti. The newly freed nation was forced to pay the equivalence of more than $12 billion USD to France—A deadly blow that crippled the country’s economy ever since. Many argue that it would be judicious and moral for France to reimburse that enormous sum of money to Haiti.
The racist posture and treatment of the slave-holding nations toward Haiti would turn the “Pearl of the Antilles,” as the French used to call it, into a fertile ground for political instability and endless turmoil. Such antecedents have, without question, a lot to do with Haiti’s current socio-economic and political situation. Needless to say, the unjust, racist, and biased foreign policies and attitudes toward this suffering black nation, in many ways, have not been changed.
*Georges Bossous, Jr. is a Former Candidate for Florida State Representative and currently President of the Haitian American Leadership Initiative. He is also the Founder and CEO of Word and Action, Inc.