Haitian Vodou is a complex spiritual religion that played a key role in the atrocities of slavery and the hardships of the Haitian Revolution. Haitian Voudu was a very pivotal part of the transatlantic slave trade as well. The inception of vodou into the country of Haiti was based upon the institution known as the transatlantic slave trade. Haitian vodou was also performed abundantly during the era of the Haitian revolution. Haitian Vodou also does a lot to release stress.
Haiti is a country that has a uniquely rich history that is predicated on its struggle to prevail within the modern world. The transatlantic slave trade is a major event in world history, but it also played a pivotal part in the history of Haiti. The citizens of Haiti were forced to endure some of the harshest slavery conditions that were ever performed on this earth. This has affirmed the people of Haiti to stand up and fight for their existence as human beings. Their bout with slavery led to a key revolution in modern world history, known as The Haitian Revolution, which allowed for this country to control its own destiny. Toussaint Louverture was the ultimate contribution to the success of the country’s fight against the European invaders. Revolution may be a key part in Haiti’s history, but this country is also grounded in spiritualism. Haitian people are particularly special in the sense that they possess their own spiritualism practice, known as Vodou. Haitian Vodou is a complex spiritual religion that played a central role in the atrocities of slavery and the hardships of the Haitian Revolution.
Slavery is the main construct into how the origins of the new world were established. In order to understand the notions of slavery, we must first understand the dynamics of how slavery was initiated. The new world was initially colonized by the Europeans and this predominantly left the new colonizers at a disadvantage in the sense that they were unable to come up with the means of production to maintain their new-found land. During this era there was a shortage of colonizers and they were unable to fully take on the responsibility of maintaining and cultivating the crops. The Europeans were left with no other choice, either stick it out or find somebody else; they decided to look towards other forms of labor. The initial laborers that the Europeans decided to implement into their labor force were the original people of America, otherwise known as he natives. The natives were not capable of withstanding the pressures and hardships of the hard labor that was expected by them from the colonizers. Now that their initial efforts were disparaged, they inherently went for the next available category. There foiled attempts at finding a new labor force left them with the decision to take their efforts to a whole different level and in doing so they decided to go after African slaves. They believed that African slaves possessed what both they and the native peoples didn’t have and one more critical component.
Northrup (1994) stated “The rise of plantation slavery was tied to the development of capitalism; the capitalists’ decision to transport large numbers of Africans and to hold them in hereditary bondage was based on the fact that enslaved Africans were cheaper than any other form of labor (p. 2).”
Therefore, the inception of slavery was based off capitalism and the colonizers need for a new labor force to take over the jobs for them.
Slavery in this new world was established on a concept known as the transatlantic slave trade. The transatlantic slave trade was a big dynamic into how slavery was running throughout the world. The transatlantic slave trade was the inhibitor in which made the slave trade into such a thriving business back in that era. This particular trade gave way to one of the biggest forced migrations of humans the world has ever seen. There are a few dynamics to the foundations of the transatlantic slave trade, such as the inclusion of three different continents, the middle passage and the actual trading process.
There were three continents that were heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade in one way or another. The three continents that were involved in the transatlantic slave trade consisted of Europe, the Americas, and Africa. All three continents worked together to formulate a concept known as the triangular trade. Essentially when you look at the trade routes, these three continents resemble a triangle. Within this There were endless voyages that went from one continent to the next all for the sake of slave trading.
The last dynamic in the grand scheme of the transatlantic slave trade would be the actual trading process. There were two different parts of the process. The first entails the Africans part in the transatlantic slave trade.
Northrup (1994) stated Slaving became a business in Africa, too. In some places networks of slave markets fed victims to the coast, where they were sold by professional African traders and by powerful rulers, who successfully drove up the prices and fees paid by European slave dealers. (p. xiv)
The idea of Africa being a part of the transatlantic slave trade is predicated off of a mere idea that Africans were only a part of the victimization process of the transatlantic slave trade, but this is not true. This comes as a surprise in the sense that the initial conception would be that the enslaving was done solely off the monetary interests of the Europeans, but in essence, the Africans had capitalistic interests as well. The African slave traders were a pivotal part in the inception of the transatlantic slave trade. These Africans ultimately did what they felt was right at the time and they conducted business. The thing about the African traders is that instead of trading goods for goods the Africans traded their own people for goods in which they had a certain interest in. Another aspect of the trading process would be the auction block. The auction block was a terrible place for slaves to be, in which led to a tremendous amount of separation between families was made. The auction block is where the slaves would go, and they would be shown off to the slave masters. This auction block was just like the present auction block in the sense that the item being auctioned went towards the highest bidder.
The other dynamic that is prevalent in the existence of the transatlantic slave trade is the middle passage. The middle passage was the trade route that the slave ships used to voyage from one continent to the next across the Atlantic into which the transport of Africans was made. Stein stated (Robert) Indeed, the crossing from Africa to the Americas that ‘Middle Passage’ was mortifying and has become compatible with all of the terror of the trade (p.35). The middle passage was the worst dynamic of the entire transatlantic slave trade. The middle passage entailed some of the most atrocious conditions that humans have ever had to endure. These slaves were packed tightly into the ships, side by side and in shackles. The slaves were forced to the bottoms of the ships and they stayed there throughout most of the day. The slaves were in essence treated as if they were animals, they were treated like they were chickens forced into a cage and left to suffer. Posthma (2003) stated, that the middle passage usually lasted fifty to eighty days, depending on where it came from and where its destination was, there were some ships that took a month, while others took six months or longer (p.25). These slaves were forced to endure these terrible conditions for great lengths of time. This is the reason as to why the middle passage was such a brutal and harsh reality for the African slaves.
One question that may come to mind is what Haiti’s involvement was in the transatlantic slave trade. With that in mind, the notion of slavery was also a pivotal mark into Haitian history, so how was there involvement made. Posthma (2003) stated that the English developed sugar plantations in the Caribbean, which were mostly based in Barbados and Jamaica, and the French developed St. Domingue (Haiti), Martinique, and Guadeloupe, which were sugar-producing islands (p.12).The country that is known in this modern day as Haiti was once known as a French colony named St. Domingue. Prior to the colonization of this territory it was named Hispaniola. This colony of Hispaniola was the first European colony and it was founded by Christopher Columbus. After the Spaniards colony was taken over by the French it was then known as St. Domingue. The colony of St. Domingue was one of the best colonies that was involved in the entire transatlantic slave trade. St. Domingue, like all other colonies of its type was heavily involved in the importing and exporting of slaves.
Geggus (2001) stated that French Caribbean was the spatial distribution of different crop types. As in Brazil, the distribution of West Central Africans was closely linked to the cultivation of coffee. St. Domingue dominated coffee production, which was concentrated in its north province. The proportion of “Congos” varied among St. Domingue’s three provinces, but in each they were 50 percent more numerous on coffee plantations than on sugar estates. 35 Sugar planters disliked buying them, although sugar planters generally exhibited a strong preference for male labor (Geggus).
This example shows that the colony of St. Domingue was able to essentially embody the act of slavery into a science. Slavers were just like sales representatives at a shoe store, they knew which slave worked best in which environment and they also knew where to go to get each slave for certain types of crops. Slavery was fundamentally a very profitable empire for the colony of St. Domingue.
The Haitian revolution is the most integral part of Haitian history. Before we get into that lets look at the social dynamics that were involved in terms of the people of St. Domingue. The colony of St. Domingue was a colony that seemed as though it was its own nation. St. Domingue was a very diverse community of people, which included the whites, the free coloreds, and the slaves. Each race of people was stratified in terms of social class within their group as well. The free blacks were treated as second class citizens. Their status made them feel as though they were free, but they were still controlled mentally by the inequalities of the social hierarchy that took place in the colony of St. Domingue. These non-white people that were discriminated against were known as the creoles, whom are basically a people of mixed race.
Geggus (2002) stated that, “The slave community was not all that homogeneous; it was even more segmented than the white and free colored groups. Split up into small units, tied six days a week to plantation labor, the slaves constituted a random agglomeration of individuals from diverse cultures; they spoke different languages and were at different stages of assimilation into colonial society (pg.7).”
The slave community in St. Domingue was a big melting pot of African culture. One could ask the question of how could they relate to one another and how could they communicate? Geggus (2002) stated slaves from different slaves from different estates could meet at the market, at clubs on Saturday, and in secret assemblies where they practiced vodou (p.7). Those slaves in particular were able to be able to connect based off of a shared common interest. The black community in St. Domingue was ultimately against each other as a result of these cultural differences. The creole people didn’t want anything to do with the slaves on the basis that they felt as though they were better,based off of the constraints of freedom. Geggus (2002) states that in 1789, the Societe des Amis des Noirs gained newfound glory because of the platform it provided for its members (Mirabeau, Brissot, Condorcet) (p. 10). This ultimately gave slave owners an idea of breaking away from the French. This act being instituted was supposed to make all men equal, but it inherently left out the demographic of the non –white colored man. May 15th, 1791, the new assembly freed coloreds born of free parents were declared equal to whites in terms of their political rights. This ultimately happened after the killing of two leaders in the black community that were executed because of there want for the governor to put an end to racial discrimination. Knight (2005) stated “Without the outbreak of the French Revolution it is unlikely that the system in Saint-Domingue would have broken down in the fateful year of 1789” (p. 400). This was practically correct because the French revolution gave the people of the colony of St. Dominique a chance to fight against the powers that be. At the end of august 1791, a slave revolt occurred in the plains around Le cap. The people got tired of the insurrection that was occurring because of the national assembly. This would spark the true beginning of the Haitian revolution.
Geggus (2002) stated “By refuting the ideology of white supremacy and destroying the governmental structure that imposed it, the French revolution thus brought the free coloreds to power in most parts of saint Domingue in alliance with the public officials from France (P. 14).
The French revolution ended up bringing together all of the blacks as one to fight against their suppressors. They were able to put away their differences and work with one another for the greater good of their country. This power and fighting didn’t last for long though as it ended up suppressing shortly after and the French and Spanish began to invade as there was a declaration of war on St. Domingue’s soil. Shortly after this the new government put in a plan to enact the abolishment of slavery on august 29, 1793. This gave the former slaves a new sense of identity and gave them a chance to live for one as they went to choose to be a soldier for either the British, the French, or the Spaniards. Geggus (2002) stated that the gradual shift in the internal power balance lay in the logic of the political situation at hand, and it also came to acquire tremendous momentum from the historic career of a single black general, Toussaint Breda, who later adopted the name Louverture (p.16). Toussaint came into power as a result of the many different factions that were trying to exert there existence onto the St. Domingue colony. Toussaint came in as a savior for his people and he ended up gaining ground as a commander and a leader very quickly. Toussaint for a good time in the revolution was at constant war and he ended up gaining a lot of ground. And ultimately gained control from the north to the west. After this the British relinquished there fight and they decided to leave because the circumstances of war were not going in their favor. After the British loss Toussaint was able to distinguish his military presence as he was able to protect the governor from a possible overthrowing. Geggus (2002) stated that by the year 1800, Toussaint was able to rule supreme in Saint Domingue and out of necessity he was attributed the Governor position (p.22) Toussaint single-handedly got rid of all of the competition that forced war on the grounds of the St. Domingue colony in order to gain possible inception. Now with that behind, Toussaint was able to focus his time on the rebuilding ofSt. Domingue. Geggus (2002) stated, in 1801 after napoleon made himself the consul for life, Toussaint developed a constitution that out all the power in his hands and made him the governor for life (p. 24). This stance against napoleon and a multitude of other things led to napoleons invasion of the colony of St. Domingue. This invasion led to the demise of the St. Domingue colony and to the life of Toussaint Louverture.
The spiritual act of Vodou is a very intricate part of the Haitian culture. With this mind, it is time to start to establish some connections. Geggus (2001) stated that “This pattern brings up the question of why the dominant African influence on Haitian culture seems to have been that of the Ewe-Fon people, or Gbe speakers, of the Bight of Benin, vocabulary and deities are most evident in the Haitian voodoo “(p.132). Vodou has had a long history and has been a pivotal part of Haitian culture since the beginning of Haiti’s inception. Desmangles states (1992) that voodoo is a religion that is based off of a systematic approach of rituals and myths that relates the life of the person to a certain deity that is in charge of that life (p.2). Vodou is like putting somebody in charge of certain parts of your life. Vodou has this “grab the wheel” mentality that is about letting someone else take on your problems and transgressions. Vodou seems as though it is a healing agent and it could have been used for the sick and the weary during the slave trade. With that being said one can ask the question of what role did this play in the Haitian society. Ceggus (1991) stated that, “While publications on voodoo are plentiful, and most writers routinely accord it a major role in the Haitian Revolution, few have studied its origins in the colonial period “(p.22) . Vodou plays a major part in Haitian Society and it always has.
Haiti is a very complex country that has been through lots of struggles through its inception as a country. Haiti had a pivotal role in the transatlantic slave trade. Through the Atlantic slave trade the people of Haiti were put through a tumultuous amount of hardship to survive and make it to the country of Haiti. Haiti molded one of the greatest military leaders to ever live in its pursuit of achieving one of the greatest slave rebellions in history. Spiritualism is also a big part of the inception of Haiti and is a big part of the Haitian culture. An area of concern for research would be to look at the idea of spiritualism from the other perspective. Look at the idea of spiritualism and then try to find the connections to the slave trade and the revolution through there.