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A nalysis of E choes of the H aitian R evolution 1804-2004 Timmy RamnananSingh 2

This book is an interesting compilation of essays which emphasises the impact of the Haitian

Revolution on civilization, race, nation building and the desire to establish the truth about the

historical effects of this revolution on the shaping of current day thought and ideologies. It

covers a number of topics such as art, diasporic relations and movement, gender, important

historical events and culture. This allows one to formulate a perspective on Haiti and its

significance to the Caribbean and different parts of the modern world (e.g. North America and

Europe).

Within the contents of the book, a number of topics were discussed in detail. Some significant

aspects are outlined as follows: The Louisiana purchase is discussed in the first chapter of the

book. Napoleon Bonaparte was a particularly aggressive and successful military and political

leader in France at that point in time. He planned an expedition to reimpose slavery in Haiti.

While doing this, he was also involved in the revival of France’s American empire. However,

Napoleon had cause to divide his troops because he faced fierce opposition in Haiti because

news had leaked of his plans. Due to this fact and the many deaths caused by yellow fever, the

French were defeated which placed Napoleon in a position where he had very little options. He

thus agreed to the sale of Louisiana to the American president at the time, Thomas Jefferson.

Another point which is of much significance is found in chapter four of the book. It discusses the

portrayal of the life of Toussaint L’Ouverture by an African American artist named Jacob

Lawrence. Toussaint is described as the “Haitian liberator” (Williams 69)1. He was committed to

emancipating his people and not interested in revenge. After the victory which Toussaint led,

Haiti was made into a French republic. However Napoleon Bonaparte sought to‘re-claim’ Haiti

which led to another battle between the Haitians and the French. Toussaint was captured and

taken to Paris. He was imprisoned in Castle Joux where he died.


A nalysis of E choes of the H aitian R evolution 1804-2004 Timmy RamnananSingh 3

There are many characters within the book that are significant. The most popular of all is

Toussaint L’Ouverture. However, to say that he is the main character would be a fallacy. Other

characters would include Napoleon Bonaparte, Jacob Lawerence and Edwidge Danticat to name

a few. The main theme is obviously the impact of the revolution on Haiti and other countries.

Other subsidiary themes mentioned in the book are the experiences of Haitians in foreign parts of

the world2 and the violence which takes place within Haiti3. The geographical location which is

focussed upon is Haiti (St. Domingue). The events which take place in the book occur during the

19th century to the 21st century.

The writers used modern day analytical tools to analyse literary and some historical pieces of

information before they proceeded. There were two conferences held which allowed for the

grouping of intellectual thought and also the portrayal of the known facts so that they could be

critiqued by a number of different scholars (e.g. Dr. Martin Munro and Dr. Elizabeth Walcott-

Hackshaw). This is an appropriate methodology for fact finding and critical analysis of

information because a plethora of information is accumulated and discussed before writings are

published.

The writer’s intention is to help the reader to appreciate the effects of the revolution on the

aspects mentioned above and to help the reader come to the realization that Haitian history is a

‘fertile field’ (Munro and Walcott-Hackshaw vii)4. The presentation was somewhat convincing.

Chapter four discusses the impact of race and miscegenation. Sutherland’s essay analysed a

novella entitled The Engagement in Santo Domingo5.

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Sutherland, Wendy. “Reading in the Dark.” Echoes of the Haitian Revolution. Ed. Martin Munro and Elizabeth
Walcott-Hackshaw. Kingston, Jamaica : University of the West Indies Press, 2008. 86-94.
A nalysis of E choes of the H aitian R evolution 1804-2004 Timmy RamnananSingh 4

It discusses an interesting take on the colour spectrum; black, yellow and white. White being the

highest form of purity, yellow symbolising ambiguity and black symbolising treachery. The

information presented was very informative and convincing because this view is still somewhat

held today. Chapters two and ten discuss diasporic relations. Chapter two talks about the

refugees from St. Domingue who arrived in Louisiana and moved of to New Orleans6. Chapter

ten comments on Edwidge Danticat and Danny Laferrière, both Haitian by origin but reside in

North America7. They have both published work from an observer’s perspective of life and

culture in Haiti. This is a particularly convincing topic as there is real evidence presented for this

movement of people. The chapters within the book were well organised. The information in

chapter six relates to gender issues as it discusses how the planter’s wives were treated and the

role they played. Chapter one highlights the plight of truth telling when it comes to gathering

historical data as information collected could be biased to the historian’s perspective.

The only problem with the book is that it is based on a multitude of literary pieces and hardly

any historical pieces. In fact, most of the historical pieces are ascertained from the literary pieces.

The book presented information which was novel and it was worth the price paid for it because it

created a desire to learn more about the history and present day activities of not only Haiti but

different Caribbean countries and their effects on the world.

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Dessens, Nathalie. “St Domingue Refugees in New Orleans.” Echoes of the Haitian Revolution. Ed. Martin Munro
and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw. Kingston, Jamaica : University of the West Indies Press, 2008. 28-40.

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Walcott-Hackshaw, Elizabeth. “Dancing at the Border.” Echoes of the Haitian Revolution. Ed. Martin Munro and
Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw. Kingston, Jamaica : University of the West Indies Press, 2008. 149-162.
Timmy RamnanaSingh 5

Bibliography

Munro, Martin and Walcott-Hackshaw, eds. Echoes of the Haitian Revolution. Kingston,

Jamaica : University of the West Indies Press, 2008.

ISBN: 978-976-640-212-9

Cost of Book: $230.00 TT

Number of Chapters: 11

Number of Pages: 187

1. Williams, Carolyn. “The Haitian Revolution and a North American Griot.” Echoes of the

Haitian Revolution. Ed. Martin Munro and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw. Kingston,

Jamaica : University of the West Indies Press, 2008. 61-83.

2. Murdoch, Adlai. “Being Haitian in New York.” Echoes of the Haitian Revolution. Ed.

Martin Munro and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw. Kingston, Jamaica : University of the

West Indies Press, 2008. 122-133.

3. Munro, Martin. “Hatred Cherie.” Echoes of the Haitian Revolution. Ed. Martin Munro

and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw. Kingston, Jamaica : University of the West Indies

Press, 2008. 163-175.

4. Munro, Martin and Walcott-Hackshaw Elizabeth. “Introduction.” Echoes of the Haitian

Revolution. Ed. Martin Munro and Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw. Kingston, Jamaica :

University of the West Indies Press, 2008. Vii-Xii.

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