African Diaspora, Spirituality

Haitian Revolution, Invigorated By African Ancestors And Spirits

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Africans In Haiti

The island we call Haiti is the home of Africans who have survived atrocities that are unimaginable to the modern mind. The Spanish arrived on the island in 1492 and chartered a course to power that included the enslavement, torture, murder, rape, and genocide of the indigenous Indian inhabitants.

Fray Bartholomew de las Casas was commissioned by the Spanish government to go to the island in 1514, to mitigate the genocide of the Indians which was being orchestrated by Christoper Columbus. It was Bartholomew who began importing African slaves to replace the indigenous Indian slaves who were worked to the point of extinction. 

The first Africans to arrive in Haiti as slaves arrived in 1510, and by 1522, 269 years before the Haitian Revolution, the African slaves set in motion the first of many revolts, revolts designed to crush the European institution of enslaving Africans.

By the early 1600s, the British and French invaded the island and challenged Spain for the right to rule Haiti and its slave-driven economy.  The three nations squabbled with each other over the island until the end of the Haitian Revolution.

Meanwhile, in 1640, France peopled the inland with its representatives, military, priest, and its citizenry who then began tobacco production, which transformed the island into a plantation-oriented economy.

The French plantation system required more bodies to plant and harvest their crops, so that, they began importing more Africans to work as slaves. From 1689 to 1789 Haiti accounted for nearly one-third of the entire Atlantic Slave Trade.

By 1789, the French are experiencing domestic problems, which gave rise to the French Revolution. Meanwhile, of the 556,000 people on the island of Haiti, 500,000 were African slaves, 24,000 were free mulattoes ( mixed race, African and European descent [blacks]), and 32,000 were European colonists.

With the African population vastly outnumbering the Europeans on the island; it was only a matter of time before a volcanic eruption occurred whipping out everything in its path. The mutilations, torture, rape, and killing of Africans by Europeans was a recipe for disaster, as life for Africans was described as a long descent into hell. The life expectancy for an African slave was 19-21 years. 

Haitian Introspection

The Africans who were brought to Haiti beginning in 1510, were taken from the region of Dahomey, Togoland, Nigeria, and the Congo River basin. The Dahomeans were the majority among the enslaved Africans, which is evident in Haitian religious practices.

The Haitians were known to practice Voodooo, the world itself is Dahomean in origin. Among the Fon-speaking people of West Africa, it signified “spirit,” or “deity.”

The Haitians were Africans before they bordered the slave ships, and so, to try and understand the underpinnings of the Haitian revolts we need to look at Africa, African religious practices, and African consciousness.

African consciousness provided the fuel for the fire of the Haitian Revolution; it was a fire that burned within the Haitian people. The fire was ferocious; it flames full of light, bright, and so pregnant with heat, it couldn’t be extinguished by European Imperialism. 

The fire is a metaphor for Haitian awareness and consciousness; which is the sacred space within, wherein the Haitians saw themselves as divine (spiritual) beings.

In his work “The Island of Memes: Haiti’s Unfinished Revolution,” Dr. Wade Nobles tells us that asking questions about Haitian consciousness is an important step in understanding Haitian revolution and the psychological mindset of the Haitian people today. He says

“It is fairly well documented that Africa conceives of reality and all that is within reality as a mental expression of the Divine. In ancient Nile Valley metaphysics, for example, Djehuti was considered the mind and will (consciousness) of the creative Demiurge and, from this “personified” Divine mind, emerged the “word” that brings all things into being. What the ancient Africans of the Nile Valley (Kemites) called the “intelligence of the Heart” was, in fact, an intricate dialogue between the electromagnetic fields generated by the “knowing” cells in our hearts, minds, and bodies and the electromagnetic energy fields in the world at large, and selected energy fields found in our particular experiences within time, place, and space.”

The Africans who boarded the ships to the Americas were not ignorant, docile, laissez-faire participants in the enslavement of African people. They were all very intelligent people who understood the spiritual nature that exist in all forms of all.

The Africans were interconnected with their great kingdoms, communities, families, and themselves as spirits living in bodies. Knowing that something was very wrong with the way they were being treated by Europeans, in no way could they passively allow slavery to exist as the status quo.

Dr. W.E.B. Dubois composed a list of rebellions by enslaved Africans: 1522: Revolt in San Domingo, 1530: Revolt in Mexico, 1550: Revolt in Peru, 1550: Appearance of the Maroons, 1560: Byano Revolt in Central America, 1600: Revolt of Maroons, 1655: Revolt of 1500 Maroons in Jamaica, 1655: Land given to Jamaican Maroons, 1646-1738: Maroons fight British in Jamaica, 1674: Revolt in Barbados, 1692: Revolt in Barbados, 1695: Palmares; revolt in Brazil, 1702: Revolt in Barbados, 1711: Negroes fight French in Brazil, 1715-1763: Revolt in Surinam,1719: Revolt in Brazil, 1763: Black Caribs revolt, 1791: Dominican Revolt, 1794: Cuban revolt, and in the United States more than 250 revolts are recorded; the list goes on.

African consciousness does not confine itself to a continent; it is omnipresent as is implied in the expression, “We are African not because we are born in Africa, but because Africa is born in us. For the Africans who were kidnapped and taken to the Western World; their consciousness was anchored in African consciousness; i.e., Djehuti, “divine will and mind.”

Dr.Wade Nobles says: “This would suggest that the consciousness of the Yoruba, Dahomians, Igbo, Nago, Hausa, Aja, Ewe, Don Bakongo, and Mandingo, etc., was renewed and reshaped as the consciousness of Africans expressing themselves as Haitians.”

African Synergy In Haiti

The Haitian Revolution was a thing of beauty that sent shock waves around the world. In one sense, it was the beginning of the end of enslaving African people. 

As stated above, Africans began resisting slavery in Haiti time they disembarked and set foot on the island. The impetus for resistance was present in the spirit that spoke within hearts and minds. 

There are a couple of names that Europeans associate with the Haitian Revolution as if to marginalize the spirit of revolt that permeated the entire population of African slaves. 

The first name is that of Toussaint L ‘Ouverture, born on November 1, 1743, who up until the age of 33 was a slave on a sugar plantation.

Toussaint was born on the Count de Breda plantation by the name of Toussaint Breda, which he later change to Toussaint L ‘Ouverture. Toussaint’s father was Gaou-Guinou, who was born free and lived in Africa, the Dahomey region, wherein he was enslaved and put on a ship that set sail to Haiti where he worked on Count de Breda’s sugar plantation.

Gaou-Guinou was the father of eight children, five boys, and three girls; the oldest boy being Toussaint. As a child on the plantation, Toussaint learned to read and write and was indoctrinated into Roman Catholic Imperialism.   

The island of Haiti was controlled by European cruelty, crimes against humanity, greed, and Roman Catholic imperialism. The Roman Catholic doctrine was the vanguard of European imperialism in all colonized lands.

Imperialism is when a country exercises power and influence over another country by diplomacy or military force. Imperialism was clearly present in, The Code Noir (The Black Code) of 1685, wherein the King of France laid out the rules for both slaves and slave owners:

Article 1. All Jews who are to be removed from the island, as with all declared enemies of Christianity, we command them to be gone within three months. Article 2. All slaves shall be baptized and instructed in the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith. Article 3. We forbid any religion other than the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith from being practiced. Article 4. No person who is not Roman, Catholic can own or have authority over Negros. Article 6. All persons must observe Sundays and holidays regardless of their own faith. Article 7. Slave markets must not be held on  Sundays and holidays. Article 8. Only persons of the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic faith can contract a valid marriage. (For the entire list of Black Code, click here)

Indifferent to the French Black Codes, Toussaint’s father taught him his native language, Ewe-Fon, and the indigenous beliefs of the Allada kingdom. Because the enslaved Africans maintained their African languages and religious beliefs, they were able to gather in secret and perpetuate African cultural and religious norms.

Then there was Jean-Jacques Dessalines who was born in Africa, some say Guinea around 1760. Dessalines was abducted from Mother Africa by French slavers and put on a ship that sailed to Haiti.

Once in Haiti, he was enslaved on  Henri Duckus’ plantation where he worked, and eventually became the slave foreman. Over the course of thirty years, he labored on the plantation until in 1788, when he was sold to Dessalines, a free Black man from who he took his name. 

These two men are important because they were fighters in Haiti’s march to freedom, a march wherein they survived the horror of torture, dismemberment, mutilation, rape, murder, and savagery. They survived, one succeeding the other, in taking leadership in what became an Independent Haiti.

However, Toussaint and Dessalinies were only manifestations of African consciousness, consciousness that gave enslaved Africans strength and the vision to identify with themselves beyond savagery, dehumanization, brutalization and indoctrination.

The French were mistaken in their belief that striping Africans of human rights and freedom would make them a permanent class of slaves, dominated by ignorance, torture, rape, murder, etc. The slavers took away their homes, families, culture, names, languages, etc., but they could not take away their inner being.

Victory over their European savages was always present within the universal laws of creation (as above, so below); it was always present in African spirituality; spirituality that can be interpreted as the “intelligence of their hearts and minds.” 

Wade W. Nobles says: “At the human level, identity is always a collective experience and passes from one collective generation (being) to the next. It is the “reincarnation of identity” as psyche that constitutes the reincarnation of a person.”

Consciousness is a form of mentalism; it can be said to be the intelligent energy of the “All,” or the intelligent energy of the divine mind. Energy is vibration, and the higher the vibration the more tangible are the relations between visible and invisible, that is, human beings and spirit.

It is understood that Both Toussaint and Dessalinies served the Voodoo Lwa, Papa Ogu-fe.  Ogou is the Nago Lwa of power. This is important because the Haitian Revolution of 1791 was the shadow of the “Mackandal Revolution” of 1750. 

The Haitian quest for freedom began with the first revolt of 1522, wherein many Africans lost their physical lives as was the case in subsequent Haitian revolts. The story of the African Revolution in Haiti becomes clear when we connect their history of resistance with their beliefs and spiritual practices.

The Mackandal Revolution occurred in 1750, and at some point during the 30 years after Mackandal’s murder, Dutty Boukman, a Jamacian-born Houngan (Voodoo Priest) emerges as a spiritual leader in the revolution.

Haitian Revolution & Voodoo Inseparable

Growing up in America and matriculating through its schools, the Haitian Revolution was cast as the end of slavery in Haiti resulting from a revolution led by Toussaint L ‘Ouverture. However, the record is clear that Toussaint was but a strand in a complex web of Black men and women who fulled the fires of freedom in Haiti.

As I reflect on the Haitian Revolution, my spirit is drawn to the role Dutty Boukman played in the Haitian Revolution. Boukman was a Voodoo priest from Jamaica who seems to have appeared in Haiti for the specific purpose of liberating the African Haitians from enslavement.

At some point in his life, Boukman was captured by the British and enslaved; it’s devastating, the Spanish, British, Portuguese, English, and French all traveled the globe savagely enslaving non-white people. Though enslaved by the British, the British sold him to the French. 

The French saw in Boukman a strong man of stature and intelligence and soon made him a slave driver, this is, he became an overseer of slaves on their plantation. 

Boukman’s position as an overseer on a French plantation is part of a divine plan, as he undergoes a transformation from a slave driver, into a slave liberator. He reminds me of Malcolm X, a street hustler who became a voice for the liberation of Black people.

On August 14, 1791, the Bois Caiman Ceremony took place in the darkness of night, in a thickly wooded area, away from the eyes of French slavers.

The ceremony was the result of months of clandestine planning and strategizing. Those present at the meeting were probably a mixture of 200 enslaved Africans from West-Central Africa (BaNtu-Kongo) and Guinea Coast (Aja, Fon, and Evhe, etc.).

They came together from many plantations, that is, over 200 slave leaders, Black men, like Boukman, who yielded influence and authority over other slaves. Men who knew how to access weapons, organize, strategize and plan.

Boukman along with Cecile Fatiman, a mulatto Voodoo Priestess presided over the ceremony, which served as a religious ritual, wherein Papa Legba, who stands at the spiritual crossroads and gives permission to speak to the spirits of all the Loa, would have had to be present. 

Dr. Wade  Nobles tells us: “The one Loa all historians agree to have been present was Cicile Faiman’s Loa, Erzulie Dantor. Erulie Dantor is a worrier spirit whose memetic ideation is to be a fierce protector of Women and Chidren.”

As the ceremony was taking place, a storm raged and as rain and lightning shot across the sky, a tall Black woman, Cicile Fatiman’s Loa, Erzulie Dantor appeared holding a child in one hand and a knife in the other.  

It was then that Cecile Fatiman, the presiding Voodoo priestess sacrificed a black pig, and all the participants marked their foreheads with the blood of the pig (some accounts say they drank the blood), and swore to follow Boukman.

We are also told that Boukman spoke at ceremony, some call it a prayer:

“The Good Lord who created the sun which gives us light from above, who rouses the sea and makes the thunder roar, listen well, all of you, this god, hidden in the clouds, watches us. He sees all that the white people do. The god of the white people demands from them crimes; our god asks for good deeds. But this god who is so good demands vengeance! He will direct our hands; he will aid us. Throw away the image of the god of the whites who thirsts for our tears, and listen to the voice of liberty which speaks in the hearts of all of us.”

Indeed Boukman not only inspired those gathered with his words; it was also prophesied that three enslaved Africans, Jeanot Bullet, George Bissou, and Jean Francois Papilon would free all Africans in Haiti. 

And so, after the ritual was solemnized by the blood oath, those present organized free blacks, field slaves, house slaves, overseers, mulattoes, and maroons to take revenge against the French and to destroy images of their God.

Eight days later, on August 22, the rebellion began in the Haitian Mountains in the North. With a week 1,800 plantations were destroyed and 1000 plantation owners killed.

Early in the fighting Boukman was captured and martyred; still, the revolution was underway, and Haiti was soon to be the Independent Republic of Haiti. 


While the deluded Europeans continue to enforce their version of world history, there are many who place no value in anything the Europeans have to say, especially in relation to world history, African history, Africans, and African descendants.

The story of the Haitian Revolution did not begin with Toussaint L ‘Ouverture, and it certainly did not end with his wretched death incarcerated in France. The Haitian Revolution is the story of Africans who never stopped practicing their religion. 

Thus, the true force, as well as the inspiration of the Haitian Revolution was their belief in Voodoo, and it’s rituals which invoked unity, guidance, and approval from the African family of Ancestors. 

The Bois Caimen Ceremony was the spiritual conformation and clarion call for the Haitians to tare down the institution of European slavery and free themselves to live as free descendants of Mother Africa.

The French Black Codes stipulated that all slaves had to be baptized into the Roman, Catholic religion and forbid the practice of African indigenous religion. Voodoo prevailed despite the efforts of Europeans to subvert the spiritual consciousness of the enslaved Africans.

The Africans on the island of Haiti won their freedom in large part because they were a spiritually consciousness people. They acted in harmony, harmony including ancestors and spirits.

Europeans were able to enslave, and put chains on physical bodies, and they were able to control resources need to live in the material. But, the African Haitians had knowledge of life beyond the physical plane, and that knowledge manifested in their spirituality, wherein the practice of Voodoo is derived.

The Africans fought and won the battle of the mind, as fas as the Europeans tried to place chains on their minds and souls, they broke free of them. Where the mind and heart lead, the body will soon follow (as above, so below). 

(click here for article on Voodoo)

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