The Black Jacobins


The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, a book by C. L. R. James, narrates the historical trend and regimes of the African slavery that existed in American territory. The book’s mainly concentrates on the story of the only place where the slaves managed to overpower the slave regime and embraced freedom. St. Dominguez was a French colony in the Caribbean that managed to overthrow the French from their territory in a revolt organized as a slave rebellion. The success of this resistance is attributed to the sense that the revolt was inclusive of the race as well as anti-colonial war.


Chapter IV of the book delves into the events that led to the revolts by slaves. The mass movement was quite an organized one, implying there was a plan expected to be adhered (James 70). James explains this by redirecting the readers to the livelihood of the slaves. They all had the same objective, that is, to do away with their oppressors. The sense of togetherness was facilitated by the residing environment. They worked and lived together in the sugar factories in large groups made up of hundreds of people (James 72).

There was a contention as the blacks joined the rest in the mass movement. The Mulattoes despised the blacks for their color and slavery. I like the reaction that was depicted by the revolt leaders in response to this contention, their willingness to fall back on the plan to revolt (James 85). It was clear that leadership has to do with strategies and tactics and plans put in place and not the color of the people or their bond they share the origin with. The riot was first characterized by burning of the plantations and murdering the masters. As a result, the French troops started killing all slaves, whether involved or not. This reimbursed their unity and more joined the revolt (James 87).

The revolt was followed by key alliances in an effort to strengthen the Mulattoes side. They were joined by big Whites who later departed and turned against them. Conditions were set to terminate the war, including Mulattoes promising to give up fight if they were awarded freedom and leadership from their own people (James 90). It took the intervention of the legislative assembly in the late 1791 after the assembly looked back on the issue of granting the Mulattoes the Right to Man. This chapter concludes with a decree that saw the mulattoes acquire full rights to be represented but still as slaves.

Chapter V is a story on efforts to end the revolt through enforcing the Mulattoes rights by the French government. The army commander, however, spared the revolt through a conspirator with the royalists. I think this was a move aimed at taking low level leadership to enable taking control of the territory from the place and not from higher authority. A new Parliament known as the National Convention was created in 1792 by the royalists. Sonthanax included the Mulattoes in the government and helped the revolutionaries to suppress the latter. This also saw the army commandant Desparbes deported (James 101).

There was an effort to overthrow the revolutionary government which saw Sonthanax army fighting the slaves under the control of Le Cap. This has led to a suppression of the rebellion at the time but later the slaves joined the rebel slaves. Sonthanax declared abolition on realization he had no support. In 1794, slavery was abolished in all colonies by the Convention (James 116).


After a period of total struggle, there was a relief in the Northern colonies after the oppressors left their territories. The author clearly depicts the series of events that led to abolition of the slavery. It is of great significance to appreciate the role the historical events played in developing economy routes in all the three continents.