Christopher Columbus claimed Haiti when he landed there in 1492. Arawak
Indians were the original inhabitants of this island when Columbus arrived.
Later, the island became a colony of England. Haiti remained virtually unsettled
until the mid-17th century, when French colonists, importing African slaves,
developed sugar plantations in the north. Under French rule from 1697, Haiti
(then called Saint-Domingue) became one of the world's richest sugar and coffee
producers. Soon, Haiti became a land of wealth with the vast use of slavery as
their method of production. The rising demand for sugar, coffee, cotton, and
tobacco created a greater demand for slaves by other slave trading countries.
Spain, France, the Dutch, and English were in competition for the cheap labor
needed to work their colonial plantation system producing those lucrative goods.
The slave trade was so profitable that, by 1672, the Royal African Company
chartered by Charles II of England superseded the other traders and became the
richest shipper of human slaves to the mainland of the Americas. The slaves were
so valuable to the open market - they were eventually called Black Gold.
Plantation owners began to be represented in the colony either by their agents
or plantation managers, who kept them, informed of production levels, profits,
expenses, and the general operations of the plantation. The arrogance and
conceit of these agents, or procurers, was that they were surrounded by a
multitude of domestic slaves to satisfy every want or need of their own. The
greater number of domestic slaves one may have entails a great amount of
prestige for these people in their time of the early 1700's and no though was
given to the immoral ways and acts taken by their race because they though it
not an issue. Plantation owners and those of the like continued to be heavily
involved in social aspects of culture and the French way of life.
Commuting from their authoritatively constructed world of pleasure in France
with wealth and prestige combined with the occasional visits to the plantation
for business. The life of a plantation owner and those that surround him is of
luxury and negative profusion. The Haitians are almost wholly black, with a
culture that is a unique mixture of African and French influences. Haiti was a
French colony until 1791 when, fired by the example of the French Revolution,
the black slaves revolted, massacred the French landowners and proclaimed the
world's first black republic. As noted, this is the first revolution of slaves
against their owners and their success did not go unnoticed. The treatment of
slaves around the globe is quite unjust. Because of the colonization of Haiti by
France, the importation of African slaves, and the original inhabitants, the
Arawak Indians, three languages were spoken on the island. This sparked a need
for a common language between the inhabitants of the island. In fact, a large
factor in the success of the Haitian Revolution (1804) was the creation of
Haitian Creole through African dialects and French. The fact that the majority
of the residents spoke their language made their domination even more prevalent.
The language was created through the slavery and the need for communication. The
people of Haiti were also aware that Creole was spreading to Jamaica as well and
their match had been met. 'Invisible' and anxious to be 'seen' by their masters,
the privileged few of the black culture and the mass of freed blacks conceived
of visibility through the eyes of their masters' already uncertain vision of
life. The slaves of Haiti rose up against their French and mulatto masters in
August of 1791. This marked the beginning of the end of one of the greatest
wealth-producing slave colonies the world had ever known.
The early leaders forming the core of this movement were Boukman Dutty,
Jeannot Bullet, Jean-Francois, and George Biassou. Later, slaves armies were
commanded by General Toussaint who was eventually betrayed by his officers
Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe who opposed his policies. The
revolt consisted of long days and nights and the energy to continue to fight and
defend their cause. It ended in 1804 and the island of Haiti became a free land
without slavery. Haitian Creole preserves much of French phonological,
morphological, syntactical, and lexical characteristics, but a merger of both
French structural features and West African features characterizes the language.
The inflectional system of French is greatly reduced. As with the pidgin
languages, which result from the need to communicate with the overseers and
those who did not share the same language, this was a development in
linguistics, which is still studied today. The expansion and strength of the
languages are a part of our history and are present in other lands of slavery
and persecution. Although pidgin is used for trade only and for no social
communication, its use resulted in a new form of communication, or language, for
the new people in the New World.