In Might of that yr, Napoleon resolved the battle by issuing a decree permitting slavery to be maintained. The Republic’s legislative physique subsequently ratified the legislation with a vote of 211 to 63, creating a gap for slavery to return elsewhere. Black individuals on the island of Guadeloupe fought the French troops Napoleon despatched there to shackle them as soon as extra, however they finally misplaced their battle and noticed slavery formally reinstated that July.
Issues unfolded in a different way, however no much less tragically, in Saint-Domingue. Below two generals who had been despatched to the island by Napoleon to, in his phrases, “annihilate the federal government of the Blacks,” the French Military was ordered to kill all of the individuals of colour within the colony who had ever “worn an epaulet.” French troopers gassed, drowned and used canine to maul the revolutionaries; the French colonists overtly bragged that after the “extermination” the island might merely be repopulated with extra Africans from the continent.
This monstrous answer solely inspired the Black troopers to combat for “independence or dying.” After defeating Napoleon’s military and declaring independence, Haiti grew to become the primary trendy state to completely abolish slavery.
My college students and colleagues, in each France and america, normally reply with shock and horror once I describe how 1000’s of Black individuals in Saint-Domingue had been so cruelly killed by the French as they fought for freedoms most individuals now take as a right. I insist on reciting this painful a part of Haiti’s path to independence as a result of the actual fact that this tried genocide stays principally unstated of proves that the French Republic continues to be unable to completely confront its historical past of slavery and colonialism.
The “Yr of Napoleon” has arrived throughout a harmful time. French teachers who research race, gender, ethnicity and sophistication are underneath assault. President Emmanuel Macron has derided the sphere of post-colonial research by suggesting that it “has inspired the ethnicization of the social query” to the purpose that the Republic is in peril of “splitting” aside. The minister of upper schooling, analysis and innovation outright known as for an investigation, “so we are able to distinguish correct educational analysis from activism and opinion,” and mentioned that students finding out vital race concept and decolonization, together with sexual identification and social class, had been selling “Islamo-leftist” ideology.
This inquest is being framed as a easy inquiry into the deserves of explicit colleges of thought; it’s truly a part of an try to silence anybody who dares to talk overtly of France’s historical past of racism. However dedicating a complete yr to the reminiscence of Napoleon demonstrates that repressing historical past within the title of France’s favourite ideology, universalism, is already a vital a part of the Republic.
As an alternative of calling for an investigation into teachers decided to deliver better consciousness to the function that race and racism play within the lives of descendants of slavery and colonialism, maybe French leaders ought to open an inquiry into why Napoleon, a racist and genocidal warmonger, continues to be glorified within the nation whose nationwide motto is “liberty, equality, fraternity.”