Do you consider yourself an 1804 Boss?
If so, are you living the story like the men, women and children at that time, who set the example for us to follow?
When you read about Haiti’s revolution, there is a sense that the story is insignificant in the history of the world. This is partly because too few Haitians are writing Haiti’s story. Therefore, most people don’t know the extraordinary courage, convictions, and feats that these revolutionaries accomplished by defeating France and claiming independence in 1804.
According to Jeremy D. Popkin, author of A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution, “The Haitian movement was a central part of the destruction of slavery in the Americas, and therefore a crucial moment in the history of democracy.”
It was not until recently, coupled with the rise in people of color fighting against brutal systemic racism in the United States and throughout the world, that more Haitians are beginning to understand what a historic moment that victory was. “Through their actions, the participants in the Haitian Revolution made it clear that liberty was incompatible with slavery and that equality had to extend to people of all races,” asserts Popkin.
There’s been a great deal of interest in the Haitian Revolution and the importance of making it equal to the French and American Revolutions in importance, if not even greater. What I realize, though, is that if we leave the story for others who struggle with the idea that all men are created equal, history will continue to rob Haiti of its rightful place.
I want to help change that. But I also need you to help me tell the 1804 story.
The beauty of Haiti’s 1804 Boss story is in the many lessons we can draw from it. It reminds those who are ill-informed of the country’s role in helping to shape global history.
Two of my most popular posts last year were on the theme of 1804 Boss. I wrote about how Haitians are still making history today, as we saw when they used social media to disrupt Haiti’s fraudulent elections.
That post resonated so much with readers that I was asked if I could make a line of T-shirt with the phrase that I coined. I listened and proceeded to work on the project these last few months. At the end of this post, I’ll share with you how you can get your own 1804 Boss T-shirt.
In the meantime, read on to learn six reasons why you need to live and claim your 1804 story.
Reason #1: The 1804 Boss Story is About Being a Pioneer
The 1804 boss story involves a series of firsts. Haiti was the first and only country of African descent to have succeeded in forcing a world power to recognize the intelligence and strengths of the population. In his book, Popkin wrote, “The Haitian Revolution’s stand against slavery and racial discrimination made it the most radical of America’s revolutionary insurrections against European rule.”
The northern part of Haiti was one of only three places in the Americas at the time to have established what is known as a learned society. Some of Haiti’s greatest intellectuals were developed on the northern side of Haiti. The country is also home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites—the Citadel, Sans-Souci and Ramiers.
When we talk about firsts, it’s worth mentioning that during the 12 and a half years of the Haitian Revolution, as many as one third of the people in the battle were women. Children were also part of the revolution, as well as a few whites who believed in equality.
If you are creating a series of firsts in your field, and your work is contributing to the society at large, and you are taking a stand against the injustices of this world, then you are probably a pioneer and an 1804 Boss. Why? Because the opposite is what is common in our society. Your story is as valuable as the next person’s.
Reason #2) The 1804 Boss Story is About Living a Purposeful Life that Creates Change
When we read about the men, women and children who led the Haitian Revolution, we see that they had one purpose and one purpose only. Even though there were conflicts, they defended themselves from ever being owned by another human being.
That drive motivated their perseverance to live or to die fighting for their freedom. And through that drive and purpose, they were able to change the course of history.
Popkin tells us, “Like revolutionary France, many other parts of the Atlantic world were powerfully affected by the events of the Haitian Revolution. The Haitian Revolution affected the entire western hemisphere, not just the U.S.”
Reason #3) The Story of an 1804 Boss is About Inspiration and Innovation
The victorious story of the Haitian revolution helped inspire other independence movements. The fact that the Haitians were able to defeat a strong and resourceful army with what they had at that time was remarkable. Popkin points out that an “illiterate population transformed a world without ever writing a word on paper of how they were planning to create that strategy.”
The 1804 story was about heart, determination and a resolve to never be kept in chains by anyone. Popkin argues, “The Haitian Revolution struck a blow against the institution of slavery and racial hierarchy.” That blow revealed to some that a ruthless system could be replaced.
Reason #4) The 1804 Boss Story is About Knowing Who You Are From the Inside Out
The notion of knowing who you are is important to claim the 1804 boss story. You understand that you were born free and that you are a miracle, and most importantly you belong to God. Yes, I know I am bringing God into this story here. How can I not when we are talking about Haiti’s tragic story, which involves France’s sense of superiority over Haitians? Haiti is a country where many seemed convinced that they are children of a lesser God, which is absurd.
One example of an influential leader during Haiti’s revolution was Toussaint Louverture, a man who refused to be diminished by slavery. He never believed in the labels people assigned to him because he knew who he was and lived as such until he died.
Popkin enlightens us, “Toussaint was the son of an African captain whose own father had been a military commander in the kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa.Through his family … Toussaint knew that blacks were not inherently condemned to inferior status; he knew they could also be rulers and lead armies.” Toussaint set out to do just that and was successful.
Then, only then, can you live your story with conviction and compassion.
Reason #5) The Story of 1804 Boss is About Living Your Principles and Values through Actions
When our principles and actions are not aligned, victory becomes a greater challenge. And if we are victorious, the cost is likely too high for the vulnerable. This is one reason we must pay attention to whether or not our values match with our actions.
Case in point regarding the French: during Haiti’s revolution, the French were also involved in a revolution on their own soil, with their own oppressed countrymen pitted against the French monarchy. This suggests that they must have believed in the principles of freedom and equality for all men.
Yet the French dispatched an army to Haiti to deny the Haitians the same rights they were fighting for. Here’s what was scary about this mismatch of principles and actions: most of the other “world powers” saw nothing wrong with that duplicity. In the minds of the French, they had the right to flex their supposed superiority and power against the people of Haiti without considering the consequences.
As Popkin aptly puts it, “the Haitians’ victory over the French in 1803 and Haiti’s declaration of independence in 1804 challenged the notion that white people, because of their supposedly higher level of civilization, were naturally destined to rule the whole world.”
The French didn’t anticipate the strength of the enslaved Haitians. Sadly, they had to learn the lesson by losing over 50,000 French soldiers during the Haitian Revolution.
Reason #6) The Story of 1804 is About the Ability to Work with and Lead Other Leaders
Some historians would be the first to tell you that the Haitian Revolution was full of personal conflict of interest, and some of the country’s generals had a penchant for dictatorship. However, when it came to uniting against the enslaving French, they were successful. Most of that was thanks to their ability to work with and lead other leaders.
Some of the leading figures in Haiti’s revolution, such as Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henri Christophe, Charles Belair, and Sanite Belair, were part of Toussaint’s leadership team. And they in turn also led other leading men and women. During Haiti’s revolution, there was no leadership vacuum.
These six ideas are by no means a comprehensive list of reasons why you should claim the 1804 Boss story. The story of what Haiti’s former revolutionaries accomplished deserves a place in history, front and center, because they represent the true ideals of fighting for liberty and equality.
These men and women handled Haiti’s revolution not like any boss, but an 1804 Boss. In essence, they left us with tremendous examples to draw from as we continue the 1804 story.
On grabbing your NEW 1804 Boss T-shirt…
PS: Upon request, I launched a limited 1804 Boss T-shirt pilot campaign with the tagline, Live the story. You can click on the link here to take you to the website to make your purchase. Make sure you grab yours today!
What is your take? What else would you like to add to this list? And what do you think you need to focus on to become an 1804 Boss? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.
About the author: Daniella Bien-Aime is the founder of the Bien-Aime Post, a digital media platform that focuses on business, leadership, education, and social media within the context of Haiti and its diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @dbienaime.