The slave revolts in Martinique

The slave revolts in MartiniqueSlavery is often narrated by presenting slaves only as servile beings carrying out the orders of their masters. We often forget to tell the other story of slavery, that of heroes, of resistance fighters who sometimes, risking their lives, refused to submit, to accept injustice or the harsh conditions of the plantations to flee, oppose and even sometimes harm the life of their master or commit suicide.

Indeed, although few writings tell it in detail, the slaves sometimes used all their means to resist the atrocities they suffered. Thus we know that in Martinique they carried out poisonings (in particular the servants responsible for preparing the master's meals), homicides, suicides, escapes, marronnage (slave escape from his master's property) and revolts.

We are going to focus more specifically on the biggest slave revolts in Martinique and they were numerous.

The most important took place in 1678, 1699, 1748, 1752, 1822, 1833 before that of 1848 leading to the abolition of slavery.

The revolt of 1678

The first major slave revolt in Martinique took place in 1678, 43 years after the beginnings of French colonization. Many small revolts took place during this period and Charles de Courbon, Count de Blénac, Governor General of the Antilles (from 1677 to 1696) known to be the great builder of the city Fort Royal (now Fort de France ) severely suppressed them. According to historian Adrien Dessalles, Gourverneur Blénac is illustrated by the crushing of one of the first slave revolts in Martinique: "The negroes, whose number was increasing daily, wanted to stir up in Martinique. De Blénac not only suppressed the insurrection they had fomented, but also chastised them with importance."

Following a revolt which took place in 1678, Blénac wrote to Colbert on September 5, 1678: “There were 10 or 12 killed with gunshots and 9 hanged or wheeled. Tomorrow, we will judge another 13” then on November 14, 1678 : “all the leaders are killed, drowned or beaten”.

Today a street (rue Blénac) bears his name in Fort-de-France to salute the memory of the man builder. A committee of memory demanded that the streets be renamed “Rue des slaves insurgés (1678)” without success.

The revolt of 1822 at Carbet

On the night of October 12 to 13, 1822 in Le Carbet, near Saint-Pierre, a slave uprising took place in the plantations of the Habitation de Monsieur Fizel. About thirty slaves gathered armed with rifles and cutlasses heading towards Habitation Ganat located on the heights of the commune of Carbet. They assassinate the owner and rally the slaves present on the plantation to their cause. They injure 7 other people and then return to Habitation Fizel.

They kill Mr. Fizel by slitting his throat. Some slaves from neighboring plantations warn their masters of these assassinations and the alert is given. Alarms are spreading in the parish of Carbet.

The Commandant of the square and the Governor of the King residing in Saint Pierre were informed of the revolt. They mobilize the patrol which very quickly leaves in search of the "maroons" (runaway slaves). All the security forces in the north of the island are launched. Very quickly, the repression was brought under control.

The slaves admit that their aim was to "massacre the whites and the colored people free in their plantations and to go en masse to the town of Saint-Pierre". They designate the main people responsible for the revolt and are all imprisoned.

On October 22, 1822, the Royal Court of Martinique was convened to give a judgment and the sanctions fell: “The Court condemns (...) Jean-Louis, Crépin, Narcisse, Edouard, Isaac, Joachim dit Banguio and Ignace (.. .) to be released from prison and led by the executor of high works to the ordinary place of executions of this city of Saint-Pierre, dressed in a red shirt and the head covered with a black veil to have the right fist there cut off and, then, their heads cut off, their bodies exposed for four hours and, afterwards, thrown into the street. "

Condemn (...) Alexis (...), Jean, Régis, Philippe, Maximin dit Balisier, Joseph dit Chat, Ferdinand, Séverin, Sylvestre, Michel (...), André, Julicceur, Marcel and Maximin (. ..) to be taken from prison and led by the executor of high works to the ordinary place of executions of this city, to be hanged and strangled on a gallows which will be planted for this purpose, until death is follows, their bodies exposed for four hours, then thrown in the street."

Six others were sentenced to 26 lashes and then handed over to their master, 8 had to attend the executions and then be handed over to their masters. Only 14 are relieved of all charges, are released and returned to their master.

This revolt had not spread across the island.

The revolt of Grand'Anse

A revolt exploded in the parish of Grand'Anse, the current Lorrain in 1833. The planters refuse the appointment of a militia officer of color, a revolt supported by the city of Marigot leads to the dissolution of the militia.

The main outcome of this revolt is that the free of colors who themselves owned slaves resolutely engage in the fight against slavery.

They get the right to access all jobs, become voters and will be eligible. Primary education is expanding, but real equality between Whites and Free of Color will remain limited.

The "final" revolt and abolition

On May 20, 1848, in the commune of Prêcheur, a white planter prohibited slaves from playing the drum. A disobedient slave is imprisoned. His arrest provokes the anger of the other slaves of the plantation who rise up and leave armed in the direction of Saint Pierre. Gendarmes are killed as well as the son-in-law of the mayor of Le Prêcheur. Some Békés who had chosen to take refuge in the presbytery died charred following the fire deliberately started by the rebellious slaves.

Following other violent clashes, slavery was abolished by the Governor of Martinique General Claude Rostoland under pressure from the crowd.