A Secret among the Blacks: Slave Resistance before the Haitian Revolution | National Humanities Center

Work of the Fellows: Monographs

A Secret among the Blacks: Slave Resistance before the Haitian Revolution

By John D. Garrigus (NHC Fellow, 2017–18)

Haitian Revolution; Colonialism; Slave Resistance; Enslaved Persons; Political Freedom; François Mackandal; Haiti

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2023

From the publisher’s description:

Unearthing the progenitors of the Haitian Revolution has been a historical project of two hundred years. In A Secret among the Blacks, John D. Garrigus introduces two dozen Black men and women and their communities whose decades of resistance to deadly environmental and political threats preceded and shaped the 1791 revolt.

In the twenty-five miles surrounding the revolt’s first fires, enslaved people of diverse origins lived in a crucible of forces that arose from the French colonial project. When a combination of drought, trade blockade, and deadly anthrax bacteria caused waves of death among the enslaved in the 1750s, poison investigations spiraled across plantations. Planters accused, tortured, and killed enslaved healers, survivors, and community leaders for deaths the French regime had caused. Facing inquisition, exploitation, starvation, and disease, enslaved people devised resistance strategies that they practiced for decades. Enslaved men and women organized labor stoppages and allied with free Blacks to force the French into negotiations. They sought enforcement of freedom promises and legal protection from abuse. Some killed their abusers.

Through remarkable archival discoveries and creative interpretations of the worlds endured by the enslaved, A Secret among the Blacks reveals the range of complex, long-term political visions pursued by enslaved people who organized across plantations located in the seedbed of the Haitian Revolution. When the call to rebellion came, these men and women were prepared to answer.

History / Haitian Revolution / Colonialism / Slave Resistance / Enslaved Persons / Political Freedom / François Mackandal / Haiti /

Garrigus, John D. (NHC Fellow, 2017–18). A Secret among the Blacks: Slave Resistance before the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2023.