C. L. R. James
In 1789, the West Indian Island of San Domingo, a few miles from Jamaica,
was owned partly by the Spaniards and partly by the French. French San
Domingo was the richest colony in the world, with a population of thirty
thousand whites, thirty thousand mulattoes, and half a million Negro slaves.
The native Carib population, nearly a million in number, had dropped to
less than fifty thousand after twenty years of European occupation.
The French Revolution was the starting point of a cruel struggle between
whites and mulattoes. The mulattoes could own land and slaves, but were de-
nied political rights and social equality. It was only after seeing their masters
torture and murder each other for two years that the slaves began their own
revolution. The play is the story of that revolution, and is substantially true to
history. The independence so hardly won has been maintained. The former
French colony of San Domingo, today Haiti, is a member of the League
of Nations, and Colonel Nemours, its representative, a man of colour, pre-
sided over the eighth assembly of the League. The closest and most cordial
relationship exists today between white France and coloured San Domingo.
The French take a deep interest in a people whose language, cultural tradi-
tions and aspirations are entirely French. The Haitians look on France as
their spiritual home and many of them fought in the French army during the
war of 1914–18. The play was conceived four years ago and was completely
finished by the autumn of 1934.
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