Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Modern Languages and Literatures

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Elizabeth Emery

Committee Member

Daniel Mengara

Committee Member

Kathleen Loysen


French treatment of slaves in Saint-Domingue at the end of the eighteenth century constituted one of the worst human rights abuses in history. French farmers brought hundreds of thousands of slaves from Africa to the wealthy Caribbean island. They courageously endured the misery of slavery until they found the path to liberty in 1804, the culmination of major slave revolts that had begun in 1791. This research demonstrates that French farmers presence in Saint-Domingue was not the main issue that affected the social stability of the colony; it was their unwillingness to respect African workers’ rights after the pronouncement of the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789.

We will explain the extent to which French political strategy in Saint-Domingue was influenced by greed from 1697 (year of the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick) to 1789 (year of the French Revolution). After the 1791 slaves’ revolts, French farmers and Napoleon Bonaparte did not want to free the slaves even though it was time to overcome slavery in the colony. We will emphasize the unwillingness of colonial leaders to respect the African slaves’ rights as human beings after the metropolitan French Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1789 and the first abolition of slavery in 1794. We will conclude that if it were not, for the French farmers’ unwillingness to respect African rights, the different groups: Blacks, Whites and people of color would have peacefully lived in Saint-Domingue.

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