Effective Emancipation?

Real Emancipation.

Real Emancipation.


The emancipation of slaves in the territory of Haiti was similar in comparison to other country’s histories of freeing enslaved peoples throughout their independence or younger years of existence. Prior to the 1800s the idea of slavery and movement was not close to the emancipation process seen through the French and then the Haiti Revolution. And in fact, after this emancipation process and into the 1800s the idea of freeing slaves, allowing the different races similar freedoms and ending the slave trade in the Atlantic wouldn’t abruptly end or get resolved. So, the ultimate question is how actually would the slaves become Freed? A document, a speech or a governmental action can have a big meaning, but the effects of something such as emancipation in Haiti would take years of continuing struggle to fully stimulate the population majority. The struggles, the violence, the disorganization, the French influence changing would all play a role in the actual freedom of the former slaves in Haiti. The slaves became freed when the declaration for their emancipation came through, but were not freed until many years after that through the process and through the changing of scenery completely in Europe and the Americas.


It was referenced numerous times in passages in the Popkin readings for class that the blacks would have an almost impossible time surviving the newly proclaimed freedom the documents of emancipation gave them in Saint Domingue. Being emancipated wasn’t something would be adjusted to overnight. As history shows, any emancipation process takes years to really be recognizable, Saint Domingue was no different. The rights given on paper or the rights the former enslaved peoples were granted seemed adjustable, somewhat fair on paper. The rights that were really recognized were barely enough to allow blacks in Saint Domingue to survive. The struggle to obtain any land, have any public opinion, conduct trade or have personal freedoms would continue to be problems. On top of this, the violence and the revolution itself were from over when the emancipation took effect. So, to even feel any sort of real emancipation the former slaves would have to survive the harsh conditions and live past all the violence and power struggle that was going to continue for the next decade or so.


The emancipation process most are familiar with would be the slaves in the United States and the Civil War. President Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation has been taught in primary and secondary history courses and was a very crucial moment in this country’s history. Obviously historians have written at long lengths about both of these processes, but for this class’s purpose it is important to note that the enslaved peoples both struggled for any real rights through the emancipation. In both Haiti and the United States violence, a battle for rights and a definition that only looked good on paper would be the primary theme for the black people. It would take nearly hundred years arguably for any major recognition and changes to occur for the blacks of the United States in their battle for real rights. The emancipation were intended to make races just, but the time and sacrifice needed after that proclamation would almost be as bad as a struggle than the enslaved period! Also, in both regions the former slaves would continue fleeing from their locations to new homelands in an attempt to escape the prejudice and violence, seeking a better quality of living. The image shown above is another example of how the former slaves looked to gain almost a feeling of revenge, but actual freedom by hanging the former masters and landowners that flexed their powers formerly on the slaves. Emancipation wasn’t going to happen overnight. The idea didn’t happen overnight, the process didn’t happen overnight and the consequences weren’t going to vanish overnight either.

Works Cited.

Popkin, Jeremy D. A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. Print.

Geggus, David, ed. The Haitian Revolution: A Documentary History. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2014. Print.

Image Used: library.brown.edu

1 Comment

  1. I appreciate you talking about the difficult process to transition out of slavery. Often, as you pointed out, being “free” wasn’t nearly as big of a challenge as just surviving. The process of transitioning from slavery to emancipation, while simple on paper, didn’t correlate well to the actual lives of many slaves. Likewise, the white masters in Saint Domingue were not exactly fans of allowing this transition to occur smoothly.

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