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Summer Debate 2023: A Secret among the Blacks - Slave Resistance before the Haitian Revolution

Join our Summer Debate 2023 on Thursday 27 July 2023, 4-6 pm BST.

This exciting discussion features one of the most important books on the Haitian Revolution to be published in recent years. Click here to register for the event. 

The Haitian Revolution, which began in 1791, is the only successful enslaved revolt in history. Though a major event in the making of the modern world, as well as in Haiti itself, its origins remain shrouded in mystery. For French colonists in Saint Domingue, it appeared to have sprung up without explanation, as if it was a spontaneous event. But in a hugely important new book, A Secret among the Blacks: Slave Resistance before the Haitian Revolution, to be published this September by Harvard University Press, the distinguished historian of Saint Domingue and the Haitian Revolution, John D. Garrigus, offers a bold rethinking of this revolution - the Haitian Revolution had a history based on slave resistance in the northern sugar producing plains of Saint Domingue.

John’s expertise ranges from Caribbean and Atlantic history, Atlantic revolutions, and French imperialism, to race, slavery and the Haitian Revolution. He is the author of numerous articles and books including Before Haiti: Race and Citizenship in French Saint-Domingue (2006), and co-author of the more recent The Plantation Machine: Atlantic Capitalism in French Saint-Domingue and British Jamaica, 1740–1788 (2016). A former Andrew Carnegie Fellow, John is now Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington.

In A Secret among the Blacks, John introduces us to 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. And through a combination of important archival discoveries and creative interpretations of the worlds endured by the enslaved, his book reveals the range of complex, long-term political visions that enslaved people pursued as they organized across plantations located in the breeding grounds of the Haitian Revolution. As a result, when the call to rebellion came, these men and women were ready to answer.

Reviewers have been enthusiastic. A Secret Among the Blacks has been described as ‘An engaging, sympathetic portrait of a population on the path to revolution’, and ‘A riveting read and a transformative contribution to our understanding of resistance and revolution in the Caribbean and the Atlantic World'. Nor will it be of interest to academics alone. ‘This important book is essential reading for historians of the Atlantic world and African diaspora, and should be read widely outside the academy’.

The Wilberforce Institute is therefore delighted to have the opportunity to discuss this major intervention into the history of slavery and the Caribbean in our Summer Debate, which will take place this year from 4-6 pm BST on Thursday, 27 July 2023.  And to discuss John’s book, we have secured a very distinguished panel of commentators, listed below, who will be joined by our own Director and Caribbean expert, Trevor Burnard. We hope you will be able to join us. 

Our panellists: 

John D. Garrigus
John D. Garrigus - Author: A Secret among the Blacks: Slave Resistance before the Haitian Revolution.
Laurent Dubois
Laurent Dubois - Professor of History and Co-Director of the Democracy Initiative at the University of Virginia.
Dominique Rogers
Dominique Rogers - Assistant Professor (MCF) of History at the University of the Antilles.
Mélanie Lamotte
Mélanie Lamotte - Assistant Professor of French and History at the University of Texas at Austin.
Meleisa Ono-George
Meleisa Ono-George - Brittenden Fellow in History at Queen’s College, Oxford.
Dexnell Peters
Dexnell Peters - Lecturer in Caribbean and Atlantic History at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Trevor Burnard
Trevor Burnard - Director of the Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull.

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