“The Voice of Liberty”: Enslavement, women, agency, and freedom after Makandal, 1760-1804
This thesis explores the period leading to the Haitian Revolution, starting in the period immediately following the Makandal Scandal of 1758. This event sought to eradicate the white population from the island and establish a black state for the formerly enslaved in its aftermath. After this event, French officials in the metropole and colonial officials in Saint Domingue sought to mitigate what they saw as growing black power and agency. White inhabitants of the island began to explicate their fears openly, setting the stage for enslaved people to take their freedom. These actions led to the successful August 1791 revolt, culminating in establishing the first black state following the Haitian Revolution in 1804. Enslaved networks and black spaces were crucial components of this success. This thesis looks at these various networks and spaces like marronage, plantation hospitals, and kalendas to locate how enslaved people created spaces for themselves that were maintained outside of colonial surveillance. Enslaved women were also crucial to this story, primarily as the gatekeepers of the broader black community. The intimate ties born from enslaved connections were critical to the success of the Haitian Revolution. White surveillance set the stage for this story. The Medical Ordinance of 1761, the Réglement du Police of 1772, legal documents, court testimony, and memoirs all get at the fear of the white inhabitants of the island. Their knowledge (or lack thereof) ultimately served as their downfall. Through this lack of information, enslavers, colonists, and metropolitan officials set the stage for a successful uprising in August 1791.
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