The Black Jacobins Essay Research Paper The

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The Black Jacobins Essay, Research Paper The San Domingo revolution led to the abolition of slavery, independence of Haiti from France and the proclamation of a black republic. However, unlike many historians, CLR James in his work, The Black Jacobins, does not depict the struggle for independence as merely a slave revolt which happened to come after the French Revolution. He goes beyond providing only a recount of historical events and offers an intimate look at those who primarily precipitated the fall of French rule, namely the black slaves themselves. In doing so, James offers a perspective of black history which empowers the black people, for they are shown to actually have done something, and not merely be the subject of actions and attitudes of others. Even before the

actual revolt, the slaves were not men who merely resisted; they were not passive objects. James offers graphic detail of the random and frequent beatings, killings and tortures in order to show the immense brutality of San Domingo’s slavery. The severity and harshness of the slavery was due primarily to the fact that the colonists understood that “To cow [the slaves] into the necessary docility and acceptance necessitated a regime of calculated brutality and terrorism” (12) Throughout his account of San Domingos’ slavery, James maintains the perseverance of the humanity of the slave population. The slaves did not succumb to their conditions by becoming inanimate objects devoid of any human qualities. Although the “majority of the slaves accommodated themselves to [the]

brutality by a profound fatalism and a wooden stupidity before their masters”, the slaves still maintained their intelligence and creativity. “The difficulty was that though one could trap them like animals, transport them in pens, work them alongside an ass or a horse and beat both with the same stick, stable them and starve them, they remained, despite their black skins and curly hair, quite invincibly human beings; with the intelligence and resentments of human beings” (11-12). Moreover, it “was this intelligence which refused to be crushed, these latent possibilities, that frightened the colonists, as it frightens the whites in Africa to-day” (18). Throughout The Black Jacobins, James emphasizes the struggle, the tension between the demands made by the society and

the human need for expression. Although, “Many slaves could never be got to stir at all unless they were whipped” they still found their ways of expression (16). Often, the only form of expression they had was suicide. “Suicide was a common habit, and such was their disregard for life that they often killed themselves, not for personal reasons, but in order to spite their owner” (16). The slave revolt was a necessary expression of the masses of the population. Through his descriptive account of the daily lives of the slaves, James shows that the only way to truly understand the San Domingo revolution is to understand the slaves. The slave masses were in fact the creators of their own history. James acknowledges that the success of the slave revolt was made possible due to

the internal rivalries in the colony. “From the very momentum of their own development, colonial planters, French and British bourgeois, were generating internal stresses and intensifying external rivalries, moving blindly to explosions and conflicts which would shatter the basis of their dominance and create the possibility of emancipation” (26). Nevertheless, James asserts that “Men make their own history, and the black Jacobins of San Domingo were to make history which would alter the fate of millions of men and shift the economic currents of three continents” (25). While he maintains the importance of the mass movement in the revolution, James also shows the importance of a powerful and influential leader. For the slaves of San Domingo, this leader was the ex-slave