August is the month for remembrance of Bwa Kayiman, a series of meetings held through August 1791 during which the Haitian people organized their Revolution. The last of these meetings was held on Sunday August 14, 1791.At this last meeting, disagreement among the group leaders arose regarding the most suitable date to start the Revolution. Generally, revolts of enslaved people were planned for the night following a Sunday or Holiday because the organizers and their supporters would have had a day of rest before battling. Additionally, fighting at night would help to negate the superior firepower of the colonial forces. A special situation presented in the Cape that made the Revolutionaries agree to start the Revolution on the night of Wednesday the 24th (Geggus 2002). This date presented an opportunity to capture the Cape while the members of the newly chosen Colonial General assembly were in town for their meeting on August 25th.
As it turned out, events did not unfold as agreed upon. A few members preferred immediate action and began rebelling on August 16th. Their isolated action led to their arrests and the subsequent arrests of other leaders. The confessions obtained from these prisoners threatened to dismantle the core personnel and to foil the entire Revolution. Boukmann reacted by starting earlier than he had anticipated and launched the Revolution on Monday, the night of the 22nd after a harsh day of work, something he would have wanted to avoid.
The meeting at Bwa Kayiman was not the first attempt on the island to organize rebellion. Other meetings such as one held in Croix-des-Bouquets in June and July of 1791 (Fick, 2004) led to rebellions that were quickly crushed and their leaders publicly executed. Boukman's meetings on the Lenormandde Mezy's Plantation were successful and helped to launch the Revolution that wouldhelp make our world a more moral place.
Delegates from about 100 plantations risked their lives to plan the dismantling of the colonial slave system. These attendees and their collaborators have our admiration because they stood up for what was right.Out-gunned but equipped with the moral conviction that slavery was man-made and not a reflection ofGod's will, these brave Revolutionaries fought to create a new social order.They laid traps, ambushed colonial forces, faked surrender, and disguised trees to look like cannons. They blocked the roads to delay colonial forces and took prominent colonists as prisoners. Money and goods taken from the plantations were used to purchase arms from American ships and from Spanish forces on the eastern part of the island (Report from the Colonial Assembly, 1792).
By September, all plantations within 50 miles of Okap had been burned (Fick, 2004). Within the first few days, the Revolutionary Forces grew from a few hundred to four thousand. Seven hundred of them were on horseback and armed. The rest fought using plantation tools as weapons. By the end of September 10,000 had given their lives to end slavery.
Boukman helped to organize the enslaved people in the countryside with those in the Cape.Suspicion of collaboration of free blacks and mulattos in the Cape led to public lynching of members of these groups (Dalmas, 1813). The Revolutionaries would have captured the Cape on the initial day of the Revolution had it not been for the arrests that were made of several of the organizers the week before. These arrests led to information that made the colonists fortify their forces in the Cape.
By the end of September 1791, 1000 plantations had been burned and hundreds of colonists killed (Geggus, 2002). The casualties among the Revolutionaries were far greater. At least 10,000 were killed and hundreds captured and tortured.Despite heavy losses, by November, 80,000 had joined the Revolutionary forces led by Boukmann.
Boukman gave marching orders and marched along. He died in battle and not in defeat. Owning to his and his collaborators planning of the Revolution, within the first few days, the Revolution had already been the most successful rebellion of enslaved people ever. At no time in history did enslaved people defeat their oppressors and nowhere in the Americas did any enslaved people's revolt last beyond 5 days without being crushed (Geggus, 2002).
Having surrounded himself with capable people, Boukman did not die in vain. The Revolution in the North continued under the leadership of Jean-Francois, Biassou, Jeannot, and Toussaint Louverture.