How did enslaved people in Saint-Domingue lead a successful revolution?
Second edition. September 2018.
Teachers: Are you using the first edition of this unit from 2010? If so, please contact us at for some information about the unit.

In the late eighteenth century, enslaved people in Saint-Domingue, the French colony that became Haiti, rose up against colonial rulers and gained their freedom and independence. Haiti became the first fully free society in the Atlantic world by abolishing slavery. It also became 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, and digital activities, students consider the development of colonies in the Americas and the legacies of one of the most successful revolts of enslaved people in world history.


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.

Preview this unit. Preview includes the Table of Contents for the Student Text and the Teacher Resource Book as well as a student reading excerpt and one lesson plan.


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.

Digital Timeline: Europe and Saint-Domingue

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

Considering the Perspectives

Students work cooperatively to analyze primary sources and explore various perspectives in Saint-Domingue and France in 1801.

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.

Assessment Using Documents: The Causes of the Haitian Revolution

Students identify the value and limitations of using different types of sources to draw conclusions about the causes of the Haitian Revolution. They integrate their findings into a coherent written response.

Students identify the value and limitations of using different types of sources to draw conclusions about the significance of the Haitian Revolution to the United States. They integrate their findings into a coherent written response.

This online lesson helps students consider how Haitians today think about the Revolution through art, music, and literature.

  • 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.


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

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

Geggus, David Patrick. Haitian Revolutionary Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

Geggus, David Patrick. The Haitian Revolution: A Documentary History. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2014.

Horne, Gerald. Confronting Black Jacobins: The United States, the Haitian Revolution, and the Origins of the Dominican Republic. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2015.

Nesbitt, Nick. Toussaint Louverture: The Haitian Revolution. London: Verso, 2008.

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

Sepinwall, Alyssa Goldstein. Haitian History: New Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2013.

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.
The “Slavery and the Haitian Revolution” page on this site includes background information, images, statistics, and primary documents.
Back to top