Popkin discusses Haitian Insurrection

Posted March 16, 2007
?Rhiannon Mim
Professor at the University of Kentucky, Jeremy Popkin presented a lecture in the President’s Dining Room on Wednesday. Presented by the Honors department, Popkin spoke of his book, “Facing Racial Revolution: First-Person Narratives of the Haitian Revolution.” Popkin was inspired to start a project about the slave uprising against the French when he read one of Madison Smartt Bell’s historical novels about the uprising.

Allison Farole
Web Editor


Bringing together three diverse scenarios, Jeremy Popkin, a history professor at the University of Kentucky, discussed the role of the Haitian Insurrection and its similarities to the French Revolution and South African Apartheid on Wednesday.

About 30 people gathered in the President’s Dining Room to hear Popkin discuss the personal accounts of two writers who faced different roles in the revolution from 1791 to 1804.

The event, “Facial Racial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection, 1791-1804,” was sponsored by the University of La Verne’s honors program.

A writer by the name of Gros was a white man who became a prisoner of the blacks on the island of modern day Haiti during the insurrection, Popkin told the audience.

During this imprisonment he was one of the 14 out of 35 who survived and eventually asked to join the black army to fight the whites, but was refused.

“Gros had a sober tone – showing no emotion in his writings,” Popkin said.

The brutal fact that the black society showed the capability for murder and whites doubted such acts came directly from Gros’ accounts.

Chazotte was a white plantation owner who fled in the 1790s, but he soon returned to his homeland and wrote his accounts of an organized massacre on the white population, Popkin said.

Chazotte found this “a brutal lesson in racial pedagogy – and declared that blacks were in control,” Popkin said.

Even though both writers highlighted were white, they both give a perspective of how blacks were treated during this uprising.

The Haitian Insurrection was the first documented successful black uprising but was somehow hidden from the history books.

With extensive comparison to Apartheid in South Africa, the society consisted of three different realms while the whites were in power.

At the top of the list were the white-French; second, the “colored;” and finally the blacks or slaves.

This uprising from white rule gives a sense of hope or even a possible outlook from past events that these types of occurrences can and will happen when different races are mixed in an unjust way.

“It’s a very interesting topic,” said Andrea Labinger, professor of Spanish and director of the honors program. “It was very important to hear this because most of us haven’t heard about the Haitian Insurrection.”

“I thought that Popkin’s lecture was interesting,” said Anna Morris, a junior liberal arts major. “I never knew there was such an uprising in Haiti.”

These writers and many more are included in Popkin’s eighth book, titled “Facing Facial Revolution: Eyewitness Accounts of the Haitian Insurrection,” which will be released in October.

Popkin has received eight fellowships, published more than 100 articles in scholarly journals and more 50 scholarly papers.

Allison Farole can be reached at afarole@ulv.edu.

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