How did enslaved people in Saint-Domingue lead a successful revolution?
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In the late eighteenth century, enslaved people in Saint-Domingue, the French colony that became Haiti, rose up against their colonial masters and gained their freedom and independence. Haiti became the first fully free society in the Atlantic world and the second independent nation in the Americas (after the United States). Understanding the Haitian Revolution is crucial to understanding the course of world history and the history of the Americas. It is also essential to understanding Haiti today. Through readings, maps, digital activities, and simulations, students consider the development of the American colonial world and the legacies of the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world.

Readings

Students explore Hispaniola’s precolonial past and the development of one of the greatest wealth-producing colonies in world history. They also consider the different groups involved in the conflict in Saint-Domingue and their motivations. The readings draw connections between events in Europe and the Americas, and reflect on the Revolution’s legacies for the region and the world.

LESSONS

Mapping European Colonization of the Americas

Students explore the geography of the Americas during European colonialism and understand how the changing political geography of the Americas affected events on Hispaniola.

Enslaved People's Experiences

Taking on the role of fictional characters, students step into the shoes of enslaved people at the start of the revolt in 1791 to consider the choices that individuals made at the time.

Digital Timeline: Europe and Saint-Domingue

Students consider the relationship between events in Europe and events in Saint-Domingue by exploring an online, interactive timeline.

Role-Playing the Options

Students work cooperatively using primary sources to present the two options people supported in Saint-Domingue and the two options considered in France for Saint-Domingue's future in 1801. Additional groups represent the views of individuals in Saint-Domingue or in France at the time.

What is Freedom?

By exploring quotes and prioritizing different elements of freedom, students consider the meaning of 'freedom' both for themselves and for people in Saint-Domingue during the Revolution.

Mapping Independence and Abolition in the Americas

Using maps, students explore the progression of abolition and independence movements in the Americas and connect historical events to present-day American geography.

The Haitian Revolution Today

This online lesson helps students consider how Haitians today think about the Revolution through art, music, and literature.
VIDEOS
What were the major legacies of the Haitian Revolution for Haiti?
What were the factors contributing to a successful revolution in Saint-Domingue?
Why do some historians say the Haitian Revolution was in fact two or even three revolutions?
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  • The maps from the lessons “Mapping European Colonization of the Americas” and “Mapping Independence and Abolition in the Americas” are included, as well as maps of Haiti in 1804 and Spanish colonialism in the sixteenth century.

  • For use with the lesson “Digital Timeline: Europe and Saint-Domingue.”

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support in teaching the teaching the curriculum.

BOOKS

Dubois, Laurent and John D. Garrigus. Slave Revolutions in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A Brief History with Documents (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). 201 pages.

Fick, Carolyn E. The Making of Haiti: the Saint Domingue Revolution from Below (Knoxville: the University of Tennessee Press, 1990). 250 pages.

Geggus, David Patrick. Haitian Revolutionary Studies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002). 220 pages.

Nesbitt, Nick. Toussaint Louverture: The Haitian Revolution (London, Verso: 2008). 116 pages.

Rouse, Irving. The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992). 172 pages.

WEB LINKS
An open-content resource that includes encyclopedic entries, timelines, images, maps, and primary source documents.
Site with articles from around the world on the bicentennial of Haitian independence.
This site includes background information, images, statistics, and primary documents.
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