The objective of this unit is to introduce high school students to the complexities of Caribbean History as exemplified by the struggles in Haiti and Cuba for the emancipation of the slaves imported to work the sugar plantations there while they were European Colonies and then the fight for Independence from those European Colonizers, the French and the Spanish, during the historical period of 1790-1902.
The primary text for this unit will be first part of this curricular unit that describes the historical events and significant historical figures that shaped this story.
After an introduction of the scope of what is to be covered including the African origins of the people forced on the Middle Passage to the Americas and the Aponte Rebellion which linked the two islands together in their struggles, the students will read the text provided.
After completing the reading each student will prepare an initial list of five questions that they would like to have answered. Then the students will divide up into groups and discuss what they have read and then formulating a new list of questions still unanswered for each group along with five things that they did not know before they started the unit.
The students will then read and research the two supplementary parts of the curriculum:
- African Origins and Caribbean Destinations (Maps and Charts)
- The Aponte Rebellion in 1812 (Reminders of the Haitian Revolution come to Cuba)
They will complete the two units in order using different historical methodologies in their research and individual work.
After the completion of the two supplementary units the students will gather in their groups and determine if their questions have been answered and then come up with a list with the remaining questions unanswered and suggestions for improvement of the unit and other related topics, they would like it to explore.
Supplementary Unit I
African Origins and Caribbean Destinations
The purpose of this unit is for students to learn about the peoples of Africa before they were sold into slavery and taken to the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola and Cuba.
Part 1: Students will become familiarize and then study the geography of the west coast of Africa and the native peoples along the coast that may have been impacted by the Atlantic Slave Trade. (Maps)
Part 2. Each student will select or be assigned one of the four designated geographic areas where people were most likely to be captured and enslaved, Senegambia, The Bight of Benin, the Bight of Biafra and West Central Africa. Then the student will research to determine a group of people from that area and learn a bit about their culture, particularly their language and their religious beliefs. (Research)
Part III. Using chart, 7.1 from Africans and the Slave Trade each student can determine where people enslaved from their group might be shipped to in the Caribbean. Also, when the greatest number of them arrived when in the 200-year period from 1650 to 1850. (Charts)
Part IV. After the students have shared their information with the class then the teacher and students will discuss the acculturation of African languages and beliefs) including the development of Kreyol in Haiti and Voodoo Religions in Haiti and Santeria in Cuba.
A Transatlantic History of Haitian Voudou by Hebblethwaite is a great source for origins of religious practices from Africa.
The best read on the provenance of Africans along the West Coast of Africa at this time in Reversing the Sails by Michael Douglas. The David Brion Davis Book is also helpful, and the David Eltis Book’s Chapter 7 is filled with detailed charts and notes about Africans origins and destinations in the Caribbean.
Supplementary Unit II
The Aponte Rebellion
The Aponte Rebellion in 1812, a Linking of Haitian Emancipation and Independence and Future Cuban Emancipation 74 Year Later and Cuban Independence 90 Years Later
After the ultimately successful uprising of the slave population that started in the North of Haiti in 1792 and then the emancipation of the slaves and eventually the military victory that brought independence to Haiti in 1804 there were many different reactions by its neighbors as well as the Europeans and Americans. The success of the Haitian Revolution was threatening to all slaveholders and doubly threatening the Spanish colony of Cuba and its growing ranks of slaveholders. Spain and the Cuban slave owning plantation owners were hoping to replace Haiti as the largest producers of sugar in the world at that time. To accomplish that, Spain was importing a greatly increased volume of slaves from Africa. The threat of revolt, posed by those African slaves, made the Spanish and Cuban plantation owners very wary.
Havana Cuba in 1812, had several small but violent insurrections on nearby plantations that erupted with the same suddenness of the slave insurrections in Haiti and the Spanish Governor moved quickly to end the threat and hang Luis Aponte, a free black along with 16 slaves. That may have ended the threat at that time, but the resonance of the successful slave revolt in Haiti would haunt Cuba, the remaining islands around it where slavery was still legal and the United States and slave holing plantation owners in the South until Cuba achieved full emancipation 74 years later.
Students are to write an essay about how the threat of a slave revolt would influence the policies of countries that still allowed slavery in the Caribbean and the United States? Your answer should consider the worldwide movement to abolish chattel slavery that finally started to become law early in the 19th century.
Matt Childs book about the Aponte Rebellion has a detailed account and Chapter 7 of Ada Ferrer’s book, Freedom’s Mirror is shorter and excellent.
For evidence and perspective on the essay I would look to the books of David Brion Davis, Michael Gomez and David Eltis. They are all thoughtful and comprehensive.