God, who created the sun, which gives us light, who rouses the seas and creates the storm, watches us from behind the clouds. He observes everything the whites do. The white god commands crime, whereas our God commands us to do good deeds. Our loving God commands us to seek vengeance for our wrongdoings. He will guide our weapons and provide assistance. Throw away the white god’s insignia, which has made us cry so many times, and listen to the voice of liberation, which speaks to all of us.
–Boukman Dutty’s “Voice of Liberty” Speech
According to many sources, Dutty Boukman’s assassination – the severing of his head and public display of it by the French – was proof of his enormous clout as a key figure in the slave insurrection known as the Haitian revolution.
Boukman, who was born in Senegambia, is said to have been a maroon chieftain as well as a Vodou houngan (priest). He was kidnapped, enslaved, and shipped to Jamaica to work for his British captor.
Dutty, also known as “Boukman Dutty,” a name derived from “Dirty Bookman,” a likely reference to a secret book of occult knowledge he carried close at all times, entered slavery as a well-educated man.
According to accounts, his French name was derived from his English nickname, “Book Man,” which some historians have taken as implying that he was a Muslim because “man of the book” is a euphemism for a member of the Islamic faith in many Muslim nations.
It’s been speculated that Boukman “was a Jamaican Muslim who had a Quran and that he received his nickname from that.” Others have speculated that Boukman practiced a syncretic religion combining traditional African and Abrahamic religions.
Dutty was sold to a French plantation in Haiti by his British master, where he worked as a commandeur (slave driver) and eventually as a coach driver.
He would teach other slаvеs to read there, as well as instruct in a highly kept Vodou lore. Boukman did all of this while keeping the colonial masters in the dark, but on August 14, 1791, he got a significant break.
According to some contemporary sources, Boukman and priestess Cécile Fatiman presided over a ceremony at the Bois Caman on that day in the position of houngan (priest).
Boukman is said to have predicted that three slaves, Jean François, Biassou, and Jeannot, would organize a resistance movement and insurrection in Saint-Domingue, freeing the slaves.
Following that, an animal was sacrificed before an oath was taken. Boukman and the priestess urged the audience to exact vengeance on their oppressors in France and to shun the image of the “God of the oppressors.”
“The event of the Bois Caman ceremony represents an important aspect of Haitian national identity as it pertains to the very genesis of Haiti,” says Markel Thylefors of Gothenburg University. Various Christian accounts described this ritual as a “pact with the devil” that kicked off the Haitian Revolution.
Boukman was a devout follower of Jesus Christ. This was the catalyst for the Haitian Revolution and had a significant impact on it.
Boukman was a devout follower of Jesus Christ. This was the catalyst for the Haitian Revolution and had a significant impact on it. He was also known as Zamba Boukman, a houngan and a Vodou priest. In the Vodou faith, Zamba refers to a spiritual leader.
This high-ranking religious post influenced enslaved Africans to join the revolution and engage in insurgent activities. He was immortal and all-powerful in their eyes.
Boukman and the other commanders organized a slave uprising in the Le Cap-Français part of the colony on November 7, 1791, following months of planning.
Boukman was slain by French planters and colonial troops during the uprisings, just a few months after they began.
“Blood from the animal was distributed in a drink to the participants to bind their destiny in loyalty to the cause of Saint-liberation,” Domingue’s according to the Encyclopedia of African Religion. 1800 plantations were burned and 1000 slave owners were executed a week later.
The French publicly displayed Boukman’s head in an attempt to deter other slaves from daring to mutiny against them, as well as to destroy the aura of invisibility instilled in the slaves by Boukman.
Boukman was not the first to attempt a slave insurrection in Saint-Domingue; others, like Padrejean in 1676 and François Mackandal in 1757, had done so before him.
His huge stature, warrior-like appearance, and frightening demeanor, on the other hand, made him an effective leader who sparked the Haitian Revolution.
In his honor, American writer Guy Endore’s novel Babouk, an anti-capitalist fable about the Haitian Revolution, features a fictitious version of Boukman as the main character.
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