The French encountered many forms of slave resistance during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The African slaves that fled to remote mountainous areas were called mawon. The mawon formed close-knit communities which practiced small-scale agriculture and hunting. Mawons were known for sneaking back to their plantations to free family members and friends. They also joined the Taino settlements on a few occasions, who escaped the Spanish in the seventeenth century. Certain mawon factions became formidable enough that they made treaties with local colonial authorities, sometimes negotiating their own independence in exchange for helping to hunt down other escaped slaves.
Other slave resistance efforts against the French plantation system were more direct. The mawon leader Mackandal (Muslim) led an unsuccessful movement to poison the drinking water of the plantation owners in the 1750s. Another mawon named Boukman (Muslim) declared war on the French plantation owners in 1791, sparking off the Haïtian Revolution.
Portraits of some elite Haitian women in the late 19th and early 20th century. CIDIHCA Archives.
The following list regroups some of the most important dates in Haitian history. Other important instances (such as the complete chronology of the Haitian Revolution) have been omitted to make this list more comprehensible. (Furthermore, this outlined timeline does not go beyond the end of the Duvalierist Regime.) References provided at this end of this page should be used for a fuller analysis of the dates presented. This document ought to be regarded as an introductory tool.
1492-1500: European arrival to Hispaniola (present day Haiti and Dominican Republic); island inhabited by Taino Arawak population
1492-1560s: Steady decline of Taino population, + or – 86% of population dies within few decades of European contact (original population estimate vary from + or – 1 million to 3.77 million in 1492, to a scarce dozens by the 1560s)
1502: Introduction of first African slaves
1521: First slave revolt in the New World
1600s: Rise of French Flibustiers culture on Spanish territory
1664: French West Indian Company administers island of Tortuga
1685: Louis XIV’s Code Noir issued
1697: Treaty of Ryswick, France gets ⅓ of the Western shore of Hispaniola (Saint-Domingue, now Haiti)
1724-1803: French government directly administers Saint-Domingue as its colony
1785-1790: Peak of colonial era; approximately 30, 000 African slaves are imported each year to Saint-Domingue (slave population of about 500, 000 by outbreak of the slave uprising)
1789: Beginning of the French Revolution, hostilities explode in Saint-Domingue between (and among) whites and the gens de couleurs
1791 (21August): Bois-Caiman Voodoo Ceremony?
1791 (22 August): Slave uprising begins (first in the North)
1793: Gradual abolition of slavery in Saint-Domingue via French commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel
1794 (4 February): National Convention abolishes slavery in all French possessions
1794-1801: Louverture rises to power in Saint-Domingue
1795: Treaty of Basel – Spain cedes Santo-Domingo to France
1801 (January): Louverture campaigns in Santo-Domingo, now part of the French Empire
1801 (July); Louverture’s Constitution, partly in reaction to Napoleon seizing power in France
1801 (November): Moïse rebellion against Louverture
1802: Napoleon’s Leclerc expedition
1803 (November): French capitulation, Battle of Vertières
1804 (1 January): Haiti proclaims her independence; Jean-Jacques Dessalines becomes the first leader
1806 (October): Assassination of Dessalines
1807-1820: Henri Christophe succeeds Dessalines
1807/11-1820: Haiti secedes between a kingdom in the North (governed by Christophe) and a Republic in the South (presided by Pétion)
1811: Henri Christophe crowns himself Henry 1er, governs the North of Haiti as kingdom until his suicide in 1820
1807-1818: Alexandre Pétion becomes president of Southern Haiti until his death in 1818
1818-1843: Jean-Pierre Boyer is president of Haiti
1820: Boyer reunites the two Haitis after the death of Henri Christophe; annexes the Dominican Republic
1825: Indemnity to France for recognition of independence, originally 150M Francs (at 1789 values)
1826: Boyer’s (particularly unpopular) Rural Code
1838: Indemnity reduced to 90M, advantage tariffs for French commerce maintained
1843: “Liberal” Revolt against Boyer
1844: Dominican Republic declares independence from Haiti (and in1864 from Spain)
1844: Piquet Rebellion
1844-1915: With few notable exceptions, beginning of a period of political instability
1849-1859: Faustin Soulouque becomes president and crowns himself emperor of Haiti
1879-1888: Presidency of Lysius Salomon
1890s-1915: Greatest period of political instability, sovereignty undermined, less Haitian-owned businesses, social classes tighten; “color question” intensify
1915-1934: US Marine Occupation, puppet presidencies to serve US and elite interests
1917-1929: Cacos Wars againts the US Occupation
1919: Death of Caco leader Charlemagne Peralte, photo of dead body paraded by Americans to discourage further resistance
1920s: Emergence of the Haitian Indigéniste movement
1928: Haitian intellectual Jean Price-Mars publishes Ainsi Parla L’Oncle and strongly criticizes the Haitian elite for their lack of social usefulness
1930s: “Color question” intensify further; Marine occupation seen as an humiliation
1934: Departure of Americans, yet political ties remain
1934: Creation of the Haitian Communist Party with members such as Jacques Roumain
1930s-1940s: Noirisme movement “grows out” of Indigénisme
1946: “Revolution of 1946”; victory of Noirisme movement; election of Dumarsais Estimé
1950: Coup against Estimé
1950-1956: Presidency of Paul Eugène Magloire
1957: Election of 1957; François Duvalier becomes president
1957-1986: Duvalier Dictatorship
1964: François Duvalier names himself president for life (until 1971)
1971-1986: Jean-Claude succeeds his father as next dictator of Haiti
1986: End of Duvalier dictatorship
1986-?: Interminable transition to democracy
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Fick, Carolyn E. The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1990.
Fischer, Sibylle. Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution. Duke University Press, 2004.
Frostin, Charles. Les révoltes blanches à Saint-Domingue aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Haïti avant 1789). Ecole, 1975.
Geggus, David Patrick. Haitian Revolutionary Studies. Indiana University Press, 2002.
James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. Penguin Books Limited, 2001.
Landers, Jane, and Barry Robinson. Slaves, Subjects, and Subversives: Blacks in Colonial Latin America. UNM Press, 2006.
Leyburn, James G. The Haitian People, by James G. Leyburn, Yale University Press, 1948.
Oliver, Jose R. Caciques and Cemi Idols: The Web Spun by Taino Rulers Between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. University of Alabama Press, 2009.
Stone, Erin Woodruff. “America’s First Slave Revolt: Indians and African Slaves in Española, 1500–1534.” Ethnohistory 60, no. 2 (March 20, 2013): 195–217. doi:10.1215/00141801-2018927.
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Haiti, State Against Nation: The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism. Monthly Review Press, 1990.
Wilson, Samuel M. Hispaniola: Caribbean Chiefdoms in the Age of Columbus. University of Alabama Press, 1990.
The Battle of Vertieres (Kreyòl: Batay Vètyè; French: Bataille de Vertières), a defining campaign in the Haitian revolution, took place on November 18, 1803. In this clash, south of Le Cap Haitians led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Alexandre Pétion ultimately defeated the French troops under General Rochambeau.
This last large battle of the Haitian Revolution, the Haitian War of Independence, was fought between Haitian rebels and French expeditionary forces. This decisive blow was a major loss for France and it’s colonial empire.
Haitians led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines and François Capois attacked a strong French-held fort of Vertières, near Cap François (in the north of Haiti) and won a decisive victory over French colonial army under General Comte de Rochambeau and forced him to capitulate the same night.
The Haitian Ninth Brigade under François Capois played a crucial role in the victory and caused Napoléon’s troops to abandon their stronghold. This battle occurred less than two months before Dessalines declaration of independence (On January 1, 1804) and delivered the final blow to the French attempt to re-institute slavery, as had been the case in the other Caribbean possesions, and to stop the Haitian Revolution.
Another leader of the fight at Vértieres was Louis Michel Pierrot, the husband of the mambo Cécile Fatiman who had led the vodou ceremonies at Bois Caïman on August 14, 1791 together with Boukman.
November 18 has been celebrated since then as the Bataille de Vertières day (Battle of Vertières’ Day) this day also used to be Armed Forces Day (French: Jour Des Forces Armées) in Haiti.