Voodoo Empowered Enslaved Africans To Be Liberated From European Colonizers In The Haitian Revolution

Voodoo And The Haitian Revolution

Kona Shen of Brown University explains how voodoo played a significant role during the Haitian Revolution in a detail History of Haiti:

“Despite rigid prohibitions, voodoo was indeed one of the few areas of totally autonomous activity for the African slaves. As a religion and a vital spiritual force, it was a source of psychological liberation in that it enabled them to express and reaffirm that self-existence they objectively recognized through their own labor . . .

Voodoo further enabled the slaves to break away psychologically form the very real and concrete chains of slavery and to see themselves as independent beings; in short it gave them a sense of human dignity and enabled them to survive.”

How Voodoo Became The Dominant Spiritual Practice Of Haiti

In Marronage, voodoo, and the Saint Domingue slave revolt of 1791 David Geggus writes:

“Along with other Afro-American religions in Brazil and the Carib- bean, Haitian voodoo constitutes one of the most striking examples of neo-African culture in the Americas. The slave trade to Saint Domingue (modem Haiti) ended more than a half-century earlier than that to Brazil or Cuba, and Haiti did not experience the postslavery contact with Africa that later brought the Shango and Kumina cults to Trinidad and Jamaica.

However, the large proportion of Africans in its population when the French were expelled in 1803, and the weakness of countervailing religious traditions in the country before as well as afterwards, help explain why voodoo became the majority religion of Haiti. Africans made up well over half of the non-white population in the 1790s. Between the expulsion of the Jesuits in the 1760s and the ending of the schism with the Vatican in 1860, efforts to christianize the black population were minimal.”

Dutty Boukman’s Voodoo Sparked A Revolution

“The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that sings in all our hearts.”

Boukman’s Prayer from the ceremony at Bwa Kayiman
Photo: Image of Dutty Boukman

According to The Louverture Project, “Boukman (also BoukmannDutty Boukman or Zamba Boukman) was a leader of the rebellion in its initial stages, he is reputed to have led a vodou ceremony together with the mambo Cecile Fatiman at Bois Caïman on August 22, 1791 which signaled the start of the rebellion.1 He had come to Saint-Domingue by way of Jamaica, then to become a maroon in the forest of Morne Rouge. Giant, powerful, “grotesque-looking man… with a ‘terrible countenance’, a face like an exaggerated African carving.” (Parkinson, p. 39) Fierce and fearsome, he was an inspiring leader.

While Boukman was not the first to lead a slave rebellion in Saint-Domingue, as he was preceded by others such as Padrejean in 1676 and François Mackandal in 1757, he delivered the spark that helped to ignite the Haitian Revolution. “Boukman Dutty (said to have been called “Book Man” in Jamaica because he could read) was sold by his British master to a Frenchman (and his name became “Boukman” in Haiti). A giant with imposing stature, with courage to match, he was a Vodou priest, exercising an undisputed influence and command over his followers, who knew him as “Zamba” Boukman.”

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