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(en) France, UCL AL #318 - File Haitian Revolution: A society structured by the "color barrier" (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 18 Sep 2021 08:57:58 +0300

In Santo Domingo, segregation was based on three officially recognized "races", themselves crossed by social hierarchies. ---- In 1789, the French part of Saint-Domingue had 560,000 inhabitants, divided between the three officially recognized "races": black (500,000, or 89%), mulatto [1](30,000) and white (30,000). The Spanish part, Santo Domingo, was twice the size and five times less populated: 15,000 black slaves, 65,000 Mulatres, 25,000 white hes. On the French side, many racial laws, beyond the well-known Code Noir, governed the inequality of rights between the three categories.
More than 90% of blacks were enslaved at the time. Almost two-thirds were bossales , that is to say Africans - mostly Bantu - who had once known freedom, but had been reduced to slavery, then sold to slave traders in the Gulf of Guinea and deported to the Antilles. In Santo Domingo, the free blacks were essentially fugitives (15,000 maroons) or else "savannah free", that is to say de facto freed.by their master - possibly because they were too old - by exempting themselves from the postage tax. The freedmen in due form were at most a few hundred. Some had been able to settle as artisans, even as planters, by buying a few slaves - this was the case with Toussaint Bréda.

Mulatto was the generic name for the mestizo (also referred to as "colored people" or "yellow race"). But, depending on their ancestry, a Mulatto could theoretically be classified into nine hierarchical categories, ranging from sacatra (almost Black) to half-blood (almost White), including claw, marabou, mulatto, quarteron, mestizo, nipple, quartered. The majority of Mulattoes were free, but their civic rights were denied, and they were prohibited from medical, maritime, legal or religious professions. In the event of a dispute, one could search the genealogy of a litigant or a candidate for a position, and dismiss him if he was found to have a black great-grandmother[2]. Strongly employed in the constabulary to track down the chestnuts, the Mulattoes could also establish themselves traders or planters, by buying slaves. According to historian CLR James, the mulatto bourgeois were often good managers, attached to their country, not wasting their money on pleasure trips to France. They saw themselves as the future of Santo Domingo.

Whites could not be enslaved and were not subject to prohibitions. In the towns, the "little whites" working as craftsmen or shopkeepers were in competition with the Mulattoes. The best way to dominate them was to maintain white supremacy in the law. The "great whites" - traders, owners, managers, senior administrators - constituted the colonial elite, fiercely attached to the slavery which ensured its prosperity.

In the political struggles of 1789-1791, the whites who were rather royalist and attached to the links with the metropolis were called "white pompoms". Those who advocated autonomy and ogled the side of the American Revolution were called "red pom poms".

Guillaume Davranche (UCL Montreuil)

Illustration: Young Lachaussée, "Mulatto woman from Martinique accompanied by her slave" , 1805

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