Breaking the Silence: The Historiography of the Haitian Revolution

“Why am I just now learning about the Haitian Revolution, especially in a modern European history course? Is it really that significant?” She was a young student. Although I cannot fully remember, I think she was a freshman. I stared back at her desperately trying to pretend that I was not frantically searching my brain for a clear answer. The problem was not a lack of answers; on the contrary, the problem was an overflow of ideas. It was my first semester working as a teaching assistant for a course on the history of modern Europe. At this stage, I still thought that as the instructor, I was supposed to know everything and anything at any given moment. In these early days, my discussion sections felt like twice-weekly pop quizzes.

Returning to the young student, I cleared my throat, broke my silence, and insecurely delivered what I prayed was a satisfactory answer. Gazing at her inquisitive eyes and feeling the other student’s predatory stares, I explained how the Haitian Revolution is significant to our understanding of the French Revolution.[1] I continued: “The Haitian Revolution reveals the inconsistencies within the French Revolution.” Gaining a little bit more confidence, I turned the question back to my class exclaiming, “The Haitian Revolution makes us ask, ‘was the French Revolution about liberty and equality, or was it about private property?” I finished: “It makes us question the nature of revolutionary movements.”

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The Backstory to the Stubborn Persistence of Sex Discrimination in America



Forty-four years ago, when Shirley Chisholm became the first woman, and the first African-American, to seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, critics dismissed her campaign as quixotic. Today, Hillary Clinton could become the party’s flag bearer, surely a moment of triumphal progress. But, the journey from asterisk to possible nominee has not stopped male commentators in the media from criticizing Clinton for shouting too much and for smiling too little. As well, Clinton, a former First Lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State, has had to face condemnation from media outlets for not being inspiring enough. Then there is last month’s attack ad from Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, that reduced Clinton to an annoying barking dog who is too weak to protect America’s national security interests. The ad not only dehumanizes Clinton, but it also reinforces a discriminatory attitude that women are unfit for leadership positions. This mindset, moreover, has long played a principal role in the shaping of American society, as it is of a piece with earlier judicial and political opinions that limited women’s rights on the basis that women were too feeble to exercise civic independence. In Mackenzie v. Hare (1915), for example, the United States Supreme Court not only upheld the Expatriation Act of 1907, an act that made an American woman lose her nationality status if she married a foreigner, but it also proclaimed the centuries-old belief that women needed men as their protectors to be “an ancient principle of our jurisprudence.”

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Sample Lesson Plan 4: AP American History


BEGINNINGS (1491-1607)

1.4. Challenges to Catholic Spain and Other Colonial Beginnings

(Lecture Base)


  • Describe the tentative and sporadic nature of French and English colonial beginnings in the New World.
  • Discuss the English context for colonization, focusing on economic factors as well as the pretext that the conquest of Ireland provided for English colonizers.

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Sample Lesson Plan 3: AP American History


BEGINNINGS (1491-1607)

1.3. The Establishment of New Spain

(Lecture Base)


  • Look at the establishment of the Spanish Empire in America; focus on the factors that contributed to this development and their eventual effects.


  • Introduce methods for understanding and analyzing primary sources.

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Sample Lesson Plan 2: AP AMERICAN HISTORY

BEGINNINGS (1491-1607)

1.2. Factors of Exploration and the Contours of Contact

(Lecture Base)


  • Describe the characteristics of European society on the eve of contact
  • Describe the characteristics of early West African empires and identify their religious and social structures
  • Define the term “Columbian Exchange” and explain its impact on the emerging Atlantic World

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