How will these resources help you?

The revolution by enslaved people in the French colony of Saint-Domingue was a successful self-liberation movement by enslaved people and led to the establishment of the nation of Haiti. Barriers to teaching include the fact that, as a French colony, much of the primary source material has been in French, and that the roles and perspectives of colonies have often been overlooked in British education, which tends to centre on events in Europe. However, it is an important event in global history and in the history of anti-racist struggle. Moreover, it adds vital context to any study of the French revolution and the relationships between France and Britain at the time.

The Haitian Revolution

The Black Jacobins

by C.L.R James, published by Penguin, (2001 (first edition 1938)), 9780140299816

This classic history explains the development over time of the Haitian revolution – the only successful slave revolt in history – from the point of view of the revolutionaries as they sought freedom and, eventually, independence. It describes a complex situation, including tensions between Black enslaved people and free mixed-race people. The success of the French revolution did not make things easier for those fighting for liberty in French colonies; leaders of the revolution struggled to persuade the French government, built on the premise that all were equal, that Black people should be included within this ‘all’. You could use this book as a class reader to teach the history of the Haitian revolution itself, to explore the role that colonies played in the so-called ‘age of revolutions’, and to discuss the effect of racism on the development of modern democracy in Europe.

Toussaint Louverture

Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture

by Sudhir Hazareesingh, published by Penguin, (2020), 9780141985060

Toussaint Louverture is the best-known figure of the Haitian revolution and was its primary driver until he was captured by the French. Although the movement began by seeking to end slavery, once the government in Paris had declared freedom for slaves, Louverture found himself engaged in a new struggle to avoid the restoration of slavery. He came to see that this could only be achieved by gaining independence from France. This new biography focuses on the fascinating characteristics of this complex man and exceptional leader. You could use extracts from this well-illustrated book to engage students with this important figure in world history.

Primary sources

The Other Revolution: Haiti 1789–1804

published by The John Carter Brown Library, (2014)

This is an archived record of a 2014 exhibition of primary sources (books, pamphlets, maps and prints) about the Haitian revolution. The original archive is held by the John Carter Brown library in the USA. The photographs of the sources are arranged chronologically and are each accompanied by contextualising explanations. This would be a great resource to support use of the books above. Being arranged chronologically, the archive can easily be cross-referenced to key events in the revolution. Pupils could also use it independently for a research project.

Audiovisual clip

Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners - First slave society in Barbados

published by BBC, (2015)

This clip explores how Barbados became the first slave society in the world, entirely sustained by the exploitation of enslaved people.

Further Materials

The Louverture Project, published by A free online Haitian history resource Visit the website
Leila Rasheed is a children’s author. She has had over ten works of fiction and non-fiction published for various age groups, in addition to short fiction, poetry and commissions. She is the director of the Megaphone Writer Development Scheme for children’s writers of colour. Among other qualifications, she has an MA in Writing with distinction from the University of Warwick, where she also taught Creative Writing for several years. Her novel Empire’s End, for readers in Key Stages 2 and 3, follows a girl who travels to Britain in the retinue of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus.

Text © Leila Rasheed, 2020.