Religious Intermediaries in the Haitian Revolution

Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:50 AM
Spire Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Erica Johnson, Francis Marion University
The religious body of Saint-Domingue played an important, but little known role in the Haitian Revolution. In the years before the slave uprising, the religious engaged in philanthropy aimed at improving the lives of people of African descent, gained the trust and respect of the enslaved population, and eventually took an active part in the political and social changes of the French and Haitian Revolutions. After 1789, a segment of the colonial religious sought equality for free people of color, the end to slavery, the maintenance of general emancipation after 1794, and Haitian independence in 1804. For example, a priest served as an intermediary between the first civil commission sent from France and revolutionary leaders Georges Biassou and Jean-François. Further, a Dominican friar spoke on behalf of free people of color before the National Legislative Assembly in Paris in 1792. Interactions like these between the religious, the French government, and the peoples of African descent remained a constant, and these relationships played important roles in the revolutions in Saint-Domingue.