Image Above: From Marcus Rainsford, An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti, (London: James Cunder, 1805)
For me, as a Black person, as it should be for all Black people….
Haitian history is both a sword and a shield.
It is a shield in that it protects us from the lie that White people have a natural right to control our fate.
It is a sword, in that it reminds them that their blood can spill if they ever think their attempt to control our fate will be tolerated forever.
We don’t have to guess. Dr. King already made his statement on such politicians in the piece “The Black Power Defined,” June 11, 1967
“The majority of Negro political leaders do not
ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support.
Although genuinely popular leaders are now
emerging, most are still selected by white leadership,
elevated to position, supplied with resources and
inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of Negroes
nurtures a healthy suspicion toward this manufactured
leader, who spends little time in persuading them
that he embodies personal integrity, commitment and
ability and offers few programs and less service.
Tragically, he is in too many respects not a fighter for a new
life but a figurehead of the old one. “
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines: Founder of the nation of Haiti
With the rise of Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential election, a reactionary nativism has taken hold in America. Resentment towards immigrants and Muslims has found solace in Trump’s promises to “build a wall” between Mexico and the United States, as well as deny further entry to Muslim immigrants. These themes have generated a White nationalistic fervor among Americans who believe they want to “take their country back,” and “make America great again.”
What is both ironic and comical about the pleas of these reactionary American nativists is that they are premised on some ridiculous White settler colonial myth about the founding of America. These ideas assume America was founded on notions of liberty and freedom when in reality those rights were originally only assured to land owning White males. What is more important in deflating this pedestrian narrative about American history’s “debt” to its bourgeois slave owning revolutionary origins, is that the most important person in assuring this settler colonial project called America was not aborted less than 30 years after the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence, was a former Black slave who helped lead an Army fellow former African slaves against three European Empires to free his people: Jean-Jacques Dessalines, founder of the independent nation of Haiti.
“But the prejudice of race alone blinded the American people [to] the debt they owed to the desperate courage of 500,000 Haitian Negroes who would not be enslaved.” — Henry Adams, direct decedent of John Adams and America’s foremost Historian of the 18th and 19th centuries
After defeating one of the greatest military expeditions in the history of the British Empire under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, his second in command, General Jean Jacques Desssalines was charged with the task of ultimately defeating Napoleon Bonoparte’s massive army from the years of 1802-1803 when Toussaint was captured by Bonaparte’s emissaries and sent back to France to die imprisoned.
What is lost on most Americans is that Napoleon Bonaparte, renowned as one of the greatest military minds in Western history, was not merely intent on conquering the former African slaves in Haiti, but also using the opportunity to plant a military expedition in New Orleans large enough to conquer North America and then president Thomas Jefferson’s United States. Hence making the newly independent United States a subject and colony of the French Empire.
“[Napoleon] set his sights on a new goal: restoring the imperial crown’s finest jewel, the lost Saint-Domingue/Haiti. In 1801, he sent the largest invasion fleet that ever crossed the Atlantic, some 50,000 men, to the island under the leadership of his brother-in-law Charles LeClerc. Their mission was to decapitate the ex-slave leadership of Saint-Domingue/Haiti. “No more gilded Africans,” Napoleon commanded. Subdue any resistance by deception and force. Return to slavery all the Africans who survived.Napoleon had also assembled a second army, and he had given it a second assignment. In 1800, he had concluded a secret treaty that “retroceded” Louisiana to French control after 37 years in Spanish hands. This second army was to go to Louisiana and plant the French flag. And at 20,000 men strong, it was larger than the entire U.S. Army. Napoleon had already conquered one revolutionary republic [France] from within. He was sending a mighty army to take another by brute force [The United States of America].” –“The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” Edward E. Baptist
“And yet, as Jefferson now instructed his envoy to Paris, Robert Livingston, “there is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans. Jefferson had to open the Mississippi one way or the other. Should a French army occupy New Orleans, wrote Jefferson, we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and Nation.”—“The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” Edward E. Baptist
“By the middle of 1802, the first wave of French forces had withered away [in Saint Domingue/Haiti]. Napoleon reluctantly diverted the Louisiana Army [20,000 soldiers] to Saint Domingue/Haiti. Then this second expedition was also destroyed. So even as Toussaint L’Ouverture shivered in his cell across the ocean, the army he left behind [under Jean Jacques Dessalines] became the first to deal a decisive defeat to Napoleon’s ambitions. Damn sugar, damn coffee, damn colonies,” the first of the Whites [Napoleon] was heard to grumble into his cup at a state dinner. “–“The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,”–Edward E. Baptist.
“Napoleon’s minion shocked Livingston [Thomas Jefferson’s representative] almost out of his knee breeches with an astonishing offer: not just New Orleans, but all of French Louisiana–the whole west bank of the Mississippi and its tributaries. now the United States was offered–for a mere $15 million–828,000 square miles, 530 million acres at three cents per acre. This vast expanse doubled the nations size. Eventually the land form the Louisiana Purchase would become all or part of fifteen states. It still accounts for almost a quarter of the surface area of the United States. By the late twentieth century Jefferson’s windfall would be feeding much of the world. One imagines that Livingston found it hard to hold his poker face steady. He immediately agreed to the deal.”–The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” Edward E. Baptist.
“to the deadly climate of Saint Domingue/Haiti and the courage and obstinate resistance made by its Black inhabitants are we indebted…[The] truth is, Bonaparte found himself absolutely compelled’–and not by Jefferson–“to relinquish his daring plan of colonizing the banks of the Mississippi.” — Alexander Hamilton. Quote from: “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” Edward E. Baptist.
The Haitian Revolution saved Jefferson’s United States from eventual conquest by Napoleon who placed 20,000 soldiers (more than the entire United States Army at the time) in New Orleans to invade North America after he foolishly thought he could defeat the Haitian Revolutionary Army. Those 20,000 soldiers had to be sent to Haiti to quell the rebellion and were subsequently defeated. Napoleon then sold all the Louisiana Territory west of the Mississippi to Thomas Jefferson for three cents per acre. This is the real story of how America was made great. Next time some Trump supporters wish to pop off about “taking their country back,” just remind them they should thank God and the Haitian people that they even have a country.
L’Union Fait La Force
In the wake of the BREXIT vote which has the world reeling after Great Britain decided to abandon the European Union, much has been said about the historical scope, power, and influence of the British Empire throughout history. At its apex the British Empire was the most powerful geopolitical force on earth. What many neglect to realize is that one of the occurrences that helped the United Kingdom rise to such a position was The Haitian Revolution, which thoroughly defeated Britain’s only serious hegemonic competitor, Napoleonic France. Much is discussed and written about Haiti’s defeat of Napoleon and how it opened the door for the Louisiana Purchase that fostered the expansion of the United States into the nation it has since become. However, few realize how the defeat of Napoleon by the brave former African Slaves in Haiti opened the door for the dominance of the British Empire. Furthermore, as Americans always pride themselves on their Revolutionary accomplishment of defeating the great British Empire and gaining their freedom, few give full acknowledgment to the superior military feat of The Haitian Revolution in its not only vanquishing the French Napoleonic Empire, The Spanish Empire of the time, but also thoroughly defeating the mighty British Empire to the point of leading the United Kingdom to agree to cease the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and any further importation of Africans into the Western Hemisphere officially. So while Americans celebrate their independence victory in defeating the greatest of European Empires, The British, recognize that former African slaves in Haiti did the seemingly impossible and defeated all three of the major European empires of that day to obtain their freedom, including the one beaten by the Americans:
“Yet it cannot be denied that both the government and British public had
learned a lesson from [Britain’s] disastrous attempt to conquer Saint
Domingue/Haiti, restore slavery, and subdue Toussaint L’Ouverture. In 1796
nearly three years after the first British forces landed in Saint
Domingue/Haiti, the [British] administration sent off one of the greatest
expeditionary forces in British history. Before the end of the year Edmond
Burke received news that 10,000 British soldiers had died in less than two
months! It was reported in the House of Commons that almost every Briton
had a personal acquaintance that had perished in the [Haitian]
Campaigns.”–“The Impact of The Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World,”
David P. Geggus.
In the end the British lost over 50,000 soldiers in their attempt to bring slavery back to Haiti. This had a direct influence on the British decision to end the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Black Eugenics: How the Black Mis-leadership Class of the Early 20th Century Supported Sterilization of the Black Poor
The Black Mis-leadership Class is a term usually referring to the race management elite that developed out of the Civil Rights Movement to handle the political and social affairs of the Black masses. This group tailors its world view and policy prescriptions to the demands of America’s majority power elite to the detriment of those same Black masses. The Congressional Black Caucus, The NAACP, The National Urban League, Black petite-bourgeois membership organizations, and the Black Church all work as the ideological and organizational mechanisms of the Black Mis-Leadership Class.
What few realize is that even before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 there existed a Black Mis-leadership class that worked as race managers for America’s power elite. The originator of “race management” as a concept was Booker T. Washington as the tool of the White industrialist class. With the crie de guerre issued by W.E.B. DuBois published in 1903 in the “Souls of Black Folk,” the Black college educated “Talented Tenth” came together to manage the affairs of the less fortunate Black masses and weaponized the idea of “race management,” giving birth to the first generation of the Black Mis-leadership Class.
Though in Black America this first generation of Black Misleaders is much revered by many African Americans today as visionaries and vanguards, they were just as duplicitous, treacherous and damaging to the lives of the Black masses as our current version of Black Mis-leaders.
Eugenics (the theory that people with desired traits should out breed the less desirable) was normal part of American thinking in the early 20th century and was supported by both intellectuals and government institutions. Not surprisingly these theories were almost always steeped in racism and used to explain the socio-economic problems of the Black Community as genetic. What many don’t know is that DuBois’ Talented Tenth, who made up the first Black Mis-leadership class, were often Black Eugenicists who believed in selective breeding and Black population control through birth control techniques including forced and voluntary sterilization of poor Black women. These techniques would be used to purify the race of its “dysgenic” types as a means of racial uplift.
“In Search of Purity: Popular Eugenics and Racial Uplift among New Negroes 1915-1935,” by Dr. Shantella Y. Sherman illustrates the tragic history of how the early 20th Century Black Mis-leadership class fully supported eugenic theory using racial sterilization couched in language supporting birth control to limit the ability of poor Black women to have children. A veritable who’s who of early 20th century Black history from W.E.B. Dubois, Mary McCloud Bethune, Charles Drew and more were supporters of this widely supported Black Eugenics movement to basically rid America of the Black poor. One must realize, in 1966 55% of Black America lived below the poverty line. We can only imagine how high that number was in the 1920s and 30s, particularly during the Depression years. This Black Eugenics policy was not merely a plan for race purity but if implemented to the full desires of that Black Mis-leadership class, it could have meant race genocide.
As Dr. Sherman states:
“The use of sterilization as a method of birth control was a reality for thousands of New Negroes between 1915 and 1935. Calls by Negro reformers to improve the quality of the race often imbibed eugenic language. Thomas Garth, for instance, wrote in a 1930 Opportunity magazine article that Negroes could have no race pride in substandard members of the race. He posited that the race “should seek to eliminate them weed them out and thereby obtain by means of selection a better stock.” Terms like “weeding out” and “eliminating” speak directly to the identification of dysgenics members of the race, and their segregation from larger society through reformatory or prison commitments.”
These Eugenics sentiments were shared by a man who is considered one of the greatest intellectuals in Black American History. W.E.B. DuBois was fully vested in these horrid Eugenics schemes: “[Negroes] are led away by the fallacy of numbers. They want the Black race to survive. They are cheered by the Census return of increasing numbers and a high rate of increase. They must learn that among human races and groups, as among vegetables, quality and not mere quantity really counts.”–W. E. B. Du Bois”
The Black Eugenics movement worked in tandem with racist white eugenicists who had less than pleasant goals in their advocacy of population control techniques. Yet these White racists were institutionally supported and given the ability to speak at functions by organizations like the National Urban League. As Dr. Sherman explained, “Reformers, like Margaret Sanger, connected eugenic better breeding to a larger movement to regulate the poor and stop the rise in crime and illegitimacy.” Furthermore, Dr. Sherman states, “Black and white eugenicists alike linked the “Negro Problem”; however, to black female fertility, which white religious figures rarely afforded divine status”
Black children did not escape from having Black Eugenicists categorize them as “defective,” usually out of spurious reasons related to their poor economic status. The language of the Black Misleaders among that Talented Tenth cadre demonstrates the sheer hatred they had for poor Black Children.
For example, as Dr. Sherman illustrates:
“Even among respected Black reformers and educators, eugenics factored into how they classified Black students’ mental aptitude, behavior, and character. Ione Peak, a black public health and hygiene teacher, made such links between eugenic defects and learning abilities, writing for the NAACP Crisis magazine. Having observed Negro School children, she noted that classroom performance problems grew out of childhood accidents, disease or malnutrition. Yet, Peak used eugenic language and terminology in describing these children as “mental defectives” and determined that they fell “into groups ranging from idiocy to high type morons.”
There are many in the Black community who argue even today that class is not relevant to issues of Black folk, and all the problems stem from racism. Racism is a serious problem without a doubt But, these statements are often made by college educated Blacks themselves to mask their role in the carnage. The farcical thinking that “it’s all us Black folk against the evil White man,” is merely a con game the Black Mis-leadership Class has used to hide their duplicity and complicity with the White power structure to ensure their ascendance while working to ground the Black poor and working class to dust. Though they may not use eugenics language publically today, the Black middle class and Black elite often hate the Black poor more that many Whites. They hate the stigma of being associated of those “dysgenic” types that make up the Black poor.
Class is a major issue in the Black community as this history illustrates. Only those who still want to play the “blame the White man game,” are unwilling to expose the Black elite complicity in the destruction of the Black masses. The history of Black Eugenics should serve as just one of the myriad of examples of how the Black Mis-leadership Class has worked to subjugate the Black poor. When seeing this history we realize that perhaps we should be extolling “Black Lives Matter,” to those Black Mis-Leaders and Black Elites who have been a cancer to Black America for over a century.