Haiti: A (Forgotten) Philosophical Revolution

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In August 1791, after a massive meeting of slaves in the Bois Cayman that ended up in an equally massive vodú ceremony, the first Latin-American independence revolution took place: it was that of Haiti, which back then was known as the French colony of Saint-Domingue, and was, by far, the wealthiest colony any colonial power had ever settled in America. Haiti declared its independence in 1804 (and, with the foreseeable exception of Cuba, no other country in the entire continent celebrated a ‘bicentenary’ in 2004, waiting instead for the 2010 bicentenaries of all the other ‘bourgeois’ and ‘white’ Latin-American revolutions). Needless to say why it is futile to try to account for the innumerable complexities of an entirely atypical and unprecedented revolution: the entire history of mankind does not provide us with any other example, neither before nor afterwards, of a scenario in which those that take over power and found a new republic are slaves. We can try to offer, nonetheless and at least in shorthand, some sort of grasp of the mayor relevance of what can be thought when (re)thinking the Haitian revolution…