Haiti’s Commitments to Decolonization and Combatting Imperialism Across The Globe–A Short History

Haiti's revolutionary efforts to become the first Black republic caused them to become active participants in global decolonization efforts. The post Haiti’s Commitments to Decolonization and Combatting Imperialism Across The Globe–A Short History appeared first on Kansas City Defender.

Haiti’s Commitments to Decolonization and Combatting Imperialism Across The Globe–A Short History

Monument to the Heroes of Vertières, 2020. (Photograph by Samy Zaka)

After the revolution against Napoleon’s army that began in 1791, Haiti became the first independent Black republic in the Americas on January 1,1804–abolishing slavery. This is a pivotal moment in history, where the oppressed triumphed over the oppressors in a resounding victory. Haiti became a beacon of genuine self-determination, freedom, and equality, for all marginalized people and inspired revolutionary movements worldwide. Haiti also crushed slavery by supporting the independence efforts of many countries.

Haitians soldiers voluntarily joined the US army to fight against British Rule

The Haitian Monument in Savannah, GA’s Franklin Square–commemorating Les Chasseurs-Volontaires de Saint-Domingue. (Savannah Morning News)

During the significant “Siege of Savannah,” considered as the beginning push by the British in conquering the American South, free Haitians soldiers voluntarily joined the US army to fight in Savannah, Georgia. Among them were major figures of Haitian history, including Andre Rigaud, Pierre Faubert, Jean Louis Vilate, Jean Baptiste Chavanes and 12-year old drummer boy, Henri Christophe. Freed from slavery at an early age, Henri Christophe was part of the battalion that fought there. A few years later, that drummer boy enlisted in the Haitian militia, and quickly rose to the rank of officer before becoming the King of Haiti’s Northern Region (1811-1820) .

By the end of the battle of Savannah, 168 Haitian soldiers lay dead, and another 411 were wounded. Today, a monument honors them in Franklin Square, Georgia. On April 25, 1944, The American Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, also dedicated a commemorative plaque to the fallen soldiers at the Cathedral in Saint Marc, Haiti. The plaque, written in French, can be translated as “Today we pay tribute to the courage and spirit of those Haitian volunteers who in 1779 risked their lives for the cause of American liberty.”

Hatian President Petion offered aid to Simon Bolivar in decolonizing South America

Statue of General Alexandre Petion, former president of Haiti, unveiled in Caracas in 2022. (Haïtianaute)

In 1815, Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan military and political leader at the time, was amazed by Haitian success toward French colonialism, and came to Haiti to ask for aid in leading a massive revolt against Spanish colonial rule in South America–setting in motion the gradual abolition of slavery. Alexandre Petion, the president of Haiti from 1807 to 1818, provided ships, soldiers, money and arms to support Simon Bolivar’s efforts to obtain the independence of South American countries. The only thing Petion asked of Bolivarin return is the promised abolition of slavery in Spanish America. Bolivar liberated six nations: Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

The original design of the Venezuelan flag was created and flown in Jacmel, Haiti on 12 March 1806; The flag was later flown over Venezuelan soil at La Vela de Coro, on 3 August. Until 3 August 2006, Flag Day was celebrated in Venezuela on 12 March. Following the 2012 Haiti earthquake, Venezuela pledged $1.3bn in aid in addition to canceling $395m in Petrocaribe debt. In 2022, the Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro Moros commemorated Alexandre Petion on his Twitter account: “I greet the people of Haiti, with great affection and gratitude, as we commemorate 252 years since the birth of Alexandre Petion, revolutionary leader and ally who collaborated with Father Bolívar in the struggle for independence. Petion’s solidarity is present in America.

Haiti is the first country to recognize Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire

In 1822, Adamantios Korais, a Greek academic and a significant political figure at the time, asked for Haiti’s financial support to fight the Ottomans. The Haitian President, Jean Pierre Boyer, sent Greece a massive shipment of 20-45 tons of Haitian coffee, one of the most sought-after commodities during the period, to be sold. The profits could then be used to purchase much-needed weapons for the Greeks. Haiti is also historically known as the first country in the world to recognize Greek independence from the Ottomans in 1822. In 1935, Princess Marina of Greece visited Haiti to solemnly express gratitude for its role in Greece’s independence from Turks.

Haiti welcomed Jewish refugees during WWII

In the 1930s, when the Nazis began their occupation of Europe, they set up “ghettos” for more than one million Jews, forcing them to live and work in fenced-off communities. Once the Nazis arrived at the Final Solution, the mass murder of Jews, most ghetto residents were killed. Some 25,000 of them, though, escaped the ghettos to hide in the woods, but few survived. Haiti took a stand against Nazi Germany by issuing life-saving visas to Jewish refugees during WWII.  According to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Haiti was responsible for saving about 70 Jewish Families ( an estimated of up to 300 lives) . Some of these refugees remained in Haiti where their descendants still live. 

These examples do not fully capture the resiliency of Haiti’s commitment to freedom. For not only has Haiti served as a beacon of liberty throughout its independent history: it has done so in the face of continuous attempts by former colonial powers to limit or even prevent its development.

Since the country’s ousting of its French enslavers, imperialists––including France, the United Kingdom and the United States––have either refused to recognize Haiti as an independent state, thwarted its economic development by forcing it to accept grossly unjust debt and trade agreements, and intervened militarily to protect their own economic interests.  In light of such obstacles, Haiti’s historic and continuing struggles to maintain political stability, achieve economic growth and development, and provide services and safety for its citizens cannot be surprising. 

More than a troubled Caribbean nation struggling against poverty, disaster and now gang violence—Haïti is a worldwide symbol of freedom and democracy. The Haitian revolution is the only successful slave revolt in the History of humanity that led to the creation of a nation. In January 1st, 1804, Haiti became the first free Black Republic in the world. Every New Year’s Day Haitian come together  to celebrate freedom and liberty around the traditional “Soup joumou” which was originally reserved for slave owners. In 2021, “Soup joumou” was added to UNESCO’s list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The dish became an expression of Haitian communion, dignity and resilience.

References & Further Reading: 

GDPR support. (n.d.). https://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta-black-history/haitis-fight-for-black-freedom-continues-to-inspire-today-finding-power-in-history/DIQHC6JP5JBTDAK6OSC566CJX4/ 

Levrier-Jones, G. (2019, July 23). The role of Black Haitian Soldiers in the Siege of Savannah during the American Revolution — History is Now Magazine, Podcasts, Blog and Books | Modern International and American history. History Is Now Magazine, Podcasts, Blog and Books | Modern International and American History. https://www.historyisnowmagazine.com/blog/2019/7/21/the-role-of-black-haitian-soldiers-in-the-siege-of-savannah-during-the-american-revolution 

Wichmann, Anna. “Haiti: The First Country to Recognize Greece’s Independence.” GreekReporter.Com, 7 July 2021, greekreporter.com/2021/07/07/haiti-the-first-country-to-recognize-greece-independence/. 

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