“What You Should know about God, Vodou, and the Ideological-Religious Interpretation of the Haitian Revolution”

“What You Should know about God, Vodou, and the Ideological-Religious Interpretation of the Haitian Revolution”

Nineteenth-Century Haitian (both the Patriotic and Romantic Literacy Movements) poets never attributed the success of the Haitian Revolution to the redemptive aspect of the Vodou religion and its Lwa/Spirits. Rather, they interpreted the Haitian Revolution as divine vindication on the institution of slavery and slave-holding societies in the Americas.

With poetic liberty and forceful rhetoric, both Romantic and Patriotic poets brilliantly argued that the triumph of the Haitian Revolution was an act of the divine will and the result of divine providence. They contended that it was the Judeo-Christian Christian God who liberated the enslaved African population at Saint-Domingue out of slavery and European colonialism.

In the same line of thought, nineteenth-century African American missionaries to Haiti took the same position that it was God who rescued the African slaves at Saint-Domingue from slavery. In their missionary endeavors in Haiti’s urban and rural areas, they propagated this message as the good news of God to the “Haytian” people. This was their basis for their evangelicalistic and missionary fervor. (In passing, it should be noted that it was not only White American and European Protestant Christian missionaries who invested in the work of Christian mission and evangelization in the early years of the Republic of Haiti. As early as 1819, African American missionaries invested in the theological education and spiritual formation of Haitian pastors, ministers, and the Haitian people. African American missionaries built the first Protestant Christian church in Haiti and started the first Episcopalian denomination in Haiti. Some of them died in the work of christian mission. Yet their sacrifice was not in vain. These Black Christian missionaries were also motivated by the messianic message of Pan-African Bibiblical Ethiopianism. )

The idea that Vodou was responsible for the success of the Haitian Revolution is a new discourse in Haitian literary and intellectual traditions that began with the publication of Jean Price-Mars’ epoch- making book “Ainsi parla l’Oncle” (“Thus Spoke the Uncle”), published in 1928. It was the substantial impact of the message of the book that gave birth to the Haitian indigenist movement and the reinterpretation of the success of the Haitian Revolution through the Vodou religion.


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