Black History Spotlight: Dutty Boukman
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
Dutty Boukman (year unknown) born in Senegambia (now the nations of Gambia and Senegal).Before,he was captured in his homeland,he had built a reputation as a respected Muslim cleric. While in Senegambia he would eventually get kidnapped by slavers and transported to the slave colonies in the Caribbean to forcibly work as a slave. He would first be taken to Jamaica, and then to Saint-Dominque (modern-day) Haiti.
Life As A Slave
Once in Haiti, Boukman would risk his life by attempting to teach other slaves how to read, and he would also combine his Quranic knowledge and his knowledge of traditional African religion to become a Haitian vodou priest. Some historians believe the French name of Boukman, derived from his English nickname of “book man”, as in “man of the book”, a term used in many Muslim countries.
Boukman would eventually be sold to a French plantation owner, who would first select him to be a commadeur (slave driver), he would later transitioned to being a coach driver. According to many scholars, Boukman and a Haitian woman named Cecile Fatiman) a vodou priestess would perform a religious ceremony at Bois Caiman, in August 1791. This ceremony would led to the 1791 Haitian slave uprising, which many historians consider to be the beginning of the Haitian revolution. Boukman would use his charismatic personality and leadership skills to help lead the slave revolt in the Le Cap-Francais region in the north of the French colony. Sadly, he would be killed by French colonial troops and planters, only a few months into the slave revolt. The French would decapitate Boukman and display the fallen freedom fighter’s head in an attempt to intimidate revolters by showing them the head of their messianic leader. The tactic would ultimately, fail and Haiti would become the only successful self-liberated slave rebellion in the world, when they defeated the powerful Napoleonic French empire in 1804. Since, Haiti was a very rich colony for the French, that defeat would force the now economically-struggling French to sell its massive amounts of land to the United States, this would be known as the Louisiana purchase.
Boukman’s Prayer, which was given at the Bois Caiman ceremony:
“The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light.The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that sings in all our hearts.”