The hit movie, Hidden Figures demonstrates something most folks have known all along. The work and contributions of women, especially Black women, is grossly overlooked and rarely celebrated. So it is no wonder that the women warriors for liberation and resistance throughout the African Diaspora are not well-known and mainly absent from the history we teach. The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) was the first successful anti-colonial, slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere. Enslaved Africans were able to conquer their oppressors, win their freedom and create a free Black nation.
Most of us can name the Fathers of the Haitian Revolution: Boukman Dutty, Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines. But where there is a founding father there most certainly is a founding mother. Women were indeed right alongside the men in helping Haiti gain its freedom. Cecile Fatiman joined the Jamaican-born, Boukman Dutty in the ceremony at the Bois Caiman. Fatiman participated in this sacred meeting as a mambo or Vodou priestess. Dutty gave the slaves gathered that night the directive to take revenge on their oppressors. Under the orders of Dutty and Fatiman, one of the greatest fights for human freedom was under way and within three days thousands of sugar plantations and their White owners were destroyed.
During this fourteen year war, soldiers, like Sanite Belair took to the battlefield as a lieutenant in L’Ouverture’s army; known for her bravery and her refusal to wear a blindfold when she was being executed.
The most symbolic figure of the Haitian Revolution would have to be Catherine Flon. She was the goddaughter of Dessalines and a nurse. She is a heroine of Haitian history for her role in creating the nation’s flag. On May 18, 1803 at the Congress of Archaye, Dessaline cut apart the French flag by ripping off the white portion as a symbol of Haiti breaking free of French rule. He gave the remaining pieces to Flon, who sewed them together creating the colors that are featured on Haiti’s flag today. Flon is along with Belair are the only two women who appear on Haitian banknotes.
Historian and Haiti scholar, Professor Bayyinah Bello points out that the spirit of resistance was not just in Haiti but throughout the colonized world: Jamaica, Brazil, Cuba, St. Thomas and North America. She also explains that the role of women in resistance and the fight for liberation was both overt and covert. Whether in prominent public positions or influencing from the home front, the women played a significant role bringing down their oppressors. Our duty as educators is to make certain that our students understand the full history and know that Black men and women worked alongside each other in solidarity and determination to realize the freedom and take back their dignity and humanity.
Peace and love good people.
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