The Haitian Declaration of Independence, missing for over two hundred years, has just been found in the British National Archives. According to an article in the New York Times, a graduate student named Julia Gaffield found the document while following up a lead she’d found in the correspondence of a British official in Jamaica who’d been in Haiti during the time of the revolution.
It’s worth taking a look at this original copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence. The tone of defiance in the face of French imperialism resonates across the centuries. The document is begins with a bold declaration: “Liberty or Death.” This defiance, along with the document’s invocation of the immense suffering already meted out to the Haitian people by 1804, is particularly painful given the steep price that Haiti paid subsequently for such defiance of the world’s foremost imperial powers.
The rediscovery of this document should underline the importance of a socially just effort to rebuild the country following the devastating earthquake of last January.