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Saint Domingue was the most profitable plantation society in Americas in 1790, leading production of sugar and coffee with a population 90 percent enslaved. Amid the conflicts and ideals of the French revolution, slaves took arms to claim freedom, end French rule, all but end sugar production, and limit coffee cultivation, taking the land to sustain families while working to build the second American nation. This chapter details the conflicts that led to the hemisphere’s only black nation and explores the contradictions that followed as once-enslaved peoples worked to build families and household economies while leaders struggled to consolidate a regime without slavery and with limited exports in a world that saw Haiti and its example as pernicious. Family autonomies and liberating visions fueled political instabilities in the face of authoritarian attempts to set state powers—all on part of an island with limited resources.

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