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Langston Hughes has earned iconic status in the history of African American letters. However, Hughes should also be understood as a radical political thinker and writer who sought to promote international anti-imperialism, Pan-Africanism, and a hemispheric understanding of Black diasporic history and culture. This chapter considers Langston Hughes’s writings on the Haitian Revolution – the play Emperor of Haiti (1936) and the opera libretto Troubled Island (1949) – as well as the presence of Haiti in Hughes’s poetry and journalism. These writings demonstrate that Haiti served as a pivot point in Hughes’s thinking, with Haitian history supplying Hughes with a heroic counter-narrative of Black freedom. Casting fresh light on the cultural currency of Haiti’s history of anticolonialism within radical African American circles, the chapter argues that Hughes’s Haitian writings carry a powerful message of an unfinished revolution, renegotiate diasporic relationships to Haiti, and proudly celebrate Black historical achievement in the Americas.
This chapter traces the socio-economic dimensions of rights development in the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). The author argues that, in the context of this revolution, which began with a revolt against slavery but became an anti-colonial struggle for independence, the conceptual separation of civil and political rights, on the one hand, and socio-economic rights, on the other, makes little sense. The story of the birth of the world’s first black republic reveals the co-dependency of socio-economic rights and citizenship rights in a struggle for liberation and dignity. The intertwined nature of citizenship and socio-economic justice is examined across several documents, including the 1801 Constitution of Saint-Domingue and the 1805 Imperial Constitution of Haiti, as well as other texts written by the revolutionaries themselves. The chapter suggests that, rather than date the advent of socio-economic rights to the twentieth century, historians should look for the socio-economic stakes of prior struggles over civil and political rights and the ways in which certain protagonists in those struggles tried to suppress them.
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