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200 years of independence for Haiti

A brief summary of Haitian history leading to the first nation created by former African slaves 200 years ago.


The first black republic is only 200 years old. For the first time an army of slaves defeated the oppressors and a new state was born. January 1st 2004 Haiti celebrated 200 years of independence.


Rebellion among slaves happened frequently in all the slave-colonies but the rebels very seldom succeeded to gain anything but more misery.

Haiti (St. Domingue as the colony in the Caribbean was then called) was one of the richest colonies in the world producing mainly coffee and sugar. And as most other colonies in the 18th and 19th century it was completely dependent on the work of slaves imported from Africa. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. First Spanish and then French people made plantations started importing slaves in great numbers.



News of the French revolution in 1789 affected the political climate for everybody on the island. The white farmers started discussing the possibility of independence from France, but too late they realised that also their black slaves could have dreams of "freedom, equality and brotherhood".

In August 1791 an uprising against the French farm-owners started among the slaves in Haiti. There was a clear majority of black slaves in the population and at first they had no problems in taking over control. Plantations were destroyed and many whites were killed or forced to flee from the island. French, Spanish, and English troops came aid. They were fighting each other for control but they all agreed the main aim: to prevent black domination in a former colony.

François Toussaint L'Ouverture, the grandson of an African chief, became the military leader of the former slaves. Toussaint remained in charge in the following many years of frequent battles, but in 1802 he was captured by French forces and later died in a French prison.



With the French arrival a revolution started once again and when it was finally over, an army of black slaves had their victory against the army of Napoleon. On January 1st 1804, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, an African-born ex-slave could declare Haiti independent. It was the first black republic in the world and the first country in the Western hemisphere to abolish slavery completely.

As word got around the black population in Haiti became inspiration for Africans in the rest of the world.

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