[News] Mumia re Black August 2004

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jul 26 08:39:10 EDT 2004

[spec. for K. Nyasha, 7/17/04] Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal

        Among these large bodies, the little community
       of Haiti, anchored in the Caribbean Sea, has had
       her mission in the world, and a mission which
       the world had much need to learn.  She has
       taught the world the danger of slavery and the
       value of liberty.  In this respect she has been
       the greatest of all our modern teachers.
       -- Hon. Frederick Douglass, former US
       Minister to Haiti *Lecture on Haiti*
       (Jan. 2, 1893) (Quinn Chapel, Chi.)

    It was a sweaty, steaming night in August, when a
group of African captives gathered in the forests of
Marne Rouge, in Le Cap, San Domingue.  It was
August, 1791.

    Among these men was a Voodoo priest, Papaloi
Boukman, who preached to his brethren about the
need for revolution against the cruel slavedrivers
and torturers who made the lives of the African
captives a living hell.  His words, spoken in the
common tongue of Creole, would echo down the
annals of history, and cannot fail but move us today,
213 years later:

       The god who created the sun which gives us
       light, who rouses the waves and rules the
       storm, though hidden in the clouds, he
       watches us.  He sees all that the white man
       does.  The god of the white man inspires him
       with crime, but our god calls upon us to do
       good works.  Our god who is good to us
       orders us to revenge our wrongs.  He will
       direct our arms and aid us.  Throw away the
       symbol of the god of the whites who has so
       often caused us to weep, and listen to the
       voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts
       of us all.
    The Rebellion of August 1791 would eventually
ripen into the full-fledged Haitian Revolution, lead
to the liberation of the African Haitian people, to
the establishment of the Haiti Republic, and the
end of the dreams of Napoleon for a French-
American Empire in the West.

    Two centuries before the Revolution, when the
island was called Santo Domingo by the Spanish
Empire, historian Antonio de Herrera would say
of the place, "There is so many Negroes in this
island, as a result of the sugar factories, that the
land seems an effigy or an image of Ethiopia
itself."  [From Paul Farmer, *The Uses of Haiti*
(Monroe, Me.: Common Courage Press, 1994),
p. 61].  Haiti was the principal source of
wealth for the French bourgeoisie.  In the
decade before the Boukman Rebellion, an
estimated 29,000 African captives were
imported to the island annually.

    Conditions were so brutal, and the work was
so back-breaking, that the average African survived
only 7 years in the horrific sugar factories.

    In 1804, Haiti declared Independence, after
defeating what was the most powerful army of
the day: the Grand Army of France.

    Haiti's Founding Father, Jean-Jacques
Dessalines, at the Haitian Declaration of
Independence, proclaimed, "I have given the
French cannibals blood for blood.  I have
avenged America."

    With their liberation, Haitians changed history,
for among their accomplishments:

    a) It was the first independent nation in Latin
    b) It became the second independent nation
in the Western hemisphere;
    c) It was the first Black republic in the modern world;
    d) It was the *only*incidence in world history
of an enslaved people breaking their chains and
defeating a powerful colonial force using
military might.

    What did 'Independence' bring?  It brought
the enmity, and anger of the Americans, who
refused to recognize their southern neighbor for
58 years.  In the words of South Carolina Senator
Robert Hayne, the reasons for US non-recognition
were clear: "Our policy with regard to Hayti is
plain.  We never can acknowledge her independence...
The peace and safety of a large portion of our
Union forbids us *even to discuss* [it]." [Farmer,
p. 79].

    In many ways, Black August (at least in the West)
begins in Haiti.  It is the blackest August possible --
Revolution, and resultant Liberation from bondage.
For many years, Haiti tried to pass the torch of
liberty to all of her neighbors, providing support
for Simon Bolivar in his nationalist movements against
Spain.  Indeed, from its earliest days, Haiti was
declared an asylum for escaped slaves, and a place
of refuge for any person of African or American
Indian descent.

    On January 1st, 1804, President Dessalines
would proclaim: "Never again shall colonist or
European set foot on this soil as master or
landowner.  This shall henceforward be the
foundation of our Constitution."

    It would be US, not European, imperialism
that would consign the Haitian people to the
cruel reign of dictators.  The US, would
occupy Haiti, and impose their own rules and
dictates.  After their long and hated occupation,
Haitian anthropologist Ralph Trouillot would say,
"[it] improved nothing and complicated almost

    Yet, that imperial occupation does not wipe
out the historical accomplishments of Haiti.

    During the darkest nights of American bondage,
millions of Africans, in America, in Brazil, in
Cuba, and beyond, could look to Haiti, and

Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal

[Read Mr. Jamal's latest work, *WE WANT FREEDOM:
A Life in the Black Panther Party*, from South End Press
(www.southendpress.org); Ph. #1-800-533-8478.]

"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die.
And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about
justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal


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