The Haitian Revolution
Lecturer: Prof Gurminder K Bhambra, University of Sussex
Oct. 2, 2020
The French Revolution and the American Declaration of Independence tend to be seen as the revolutions that brought into being the modern world. While both events opened up the political process to increasing proportions of their populations and established general or universal understandings of citizenship, these have come to be regarded as problematic. For example, citizenship was only available to white males over a particular age who held property. Women were denied the vote, as were black people and white men without property. One of the few constitutions of the time that did not make colour a bar to political participation was that of the Haitian Revolution. In this session, we consider the significance of the Haitian Revolution and discuss its contribution to the making of the modern world.
- Bhambra, Gurminder K. 2016. ‘Undoing the Epistemic Disavowal of the Haitian Revolution: A Contribution to Global Social Thought’ Journal of Intercultural Studies 37 (1): 1-16.
- James, C. L. R. 1989 [1963, 1938]. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. Second Edition. New York: Vintage Books.
- May, Vivian M. 2008. ‘“It is Never a Question of the Slaves”: Anna Julia Cooper’s Challenge to History’s Silences in Her 1925 Sorbonne Thesis,’ Callaloo 31 (3): 903–918.
- Semley, Lorelle D. 2013. ‘To Live and Die, Free and French: Toussaint Louverture’s 1801 Constitution and the Original Challenge of Black Citizenship,’ Radical History Review (115): 65-90.
- Shilliam Robbie 2017. Race and Revolution at Bwa Kayiman. Millennium 45 (3): 269-292.
- Trouillot, Michel-Rolph 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, Boston: Beacon Press.
- Anna Julia Cooper – Global Social Theory website.
- CLR James – Global Social Theory website.
- Undoing the Silencing of the Haitian Revolution – blog by Gurminder K Bhambra.
- Dubois, Laurent 2016. ‘Atlantic freedoms: Haiti, not the US or France, was where the assertion of human rights reached its defining climax in the Age of Revolution’ Aeon.
Questions for discussion
- What is the significance of the Haitian Revolution to our understandings of modernity?
- How does the Haitian Revolution, and the idea of Black Citizenship, extend our understandings of citizenship more generally?
- What explains the silence around the events of the Haitian Revolution in standard social science understandings of modernity and citizenship?