On January 20, 1758, he either burned to death at the stake or made an amazing escape. Macandal was one of the greatest revolutionaries in
history yet his story was hidden.
He is the first known black to proclaim he would end slavery
. Taken from the Congo region at the age of 12
to the Caribbean, he was fluent in Arabic and was sought far and wide by slaves and aristocrats for his use of plants in the treatment of disease
. He was a gifted musician, painter and sculptor. Education was forbidden for slaves but he learned to speak fluent French. After escaping his plantation he began the overthrow of the French and the defeat of slavery.
Macandal ultimately united thousands to revolution and may be more responsible for ending slavery than any other.
Even the black Marxist writer C.L.R. James
attributed the "Haitian Revolution" to spontaneous
rioting by 500,000 black slaves.
Historians have reduced the Haitian Revolution, the
only successful overthrow of a colonial power by black slaves, to a ‘collective
rage,’ inspired by the "French Revolution."
Macandal's story shatters this myth. The Haitian Revolution was the
result of the "Macandal Revolution;" which started over 40 years before
Most historians rely on accounts written by Macandal's captors, the French, when diminishing his exploits. Many quote Alejo Carpentier's imaginary tale about "Mackandal" as if it was factual. After devoting 20 years researching the facts and folklore about Macandal, I have compiled an alternate version of his life. I used extensive research including dozens of interviews taken from individuals in Haiti, who knew of Macandal's roots, to create my papers, documentary and historical fiction novel. I researched archives in Paris and visited seaports in South America to develop this account. My U.C. Berkeley papers were critiqued by Professor Michel Laguerre, a well-known historian and renowned author of over a dozen books on Haiti. An early paper I have posted on this site discusses the reasons great exploits of slaves were obliterated by colonial writers and historians. Macandal, Makandal or Mackendal was not a Voodoo Priest but highly educated and a brilliant strategist. Macandal prioritized education, unification and empowerment above all and was tenacious in the pursuit of his goal to end slavery.
Macandal is the person most responsible for ending worldwide slavery because he is the first known slave to actually claim slavery would be defeated, that the French would fall and black slaves would rule independently. Macandal planned and began the warthat was taken up later by Boukman, Toussaint and other resistant revolutionaries. Without Macandal the Haitian Revolution would never have happened.
I first read about Macandal in Wade Davis' book The Serpent and the Rainbow, in 1989. This account came from Anthropologist Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, who I interviewed in Haiti in 1997. I continued to study Macandal at U.C. Berkeley, where I was sponsored for grants by the world-renowned author and expert on Haiti and Haitian history, U.C. Berkeley Professor Michel Laguerre and Caribbean researcher, Professor Laurie Wilkie. I traveled to Haiti with Paul Krawiec, (now a chef) during the summer of 1997, to research Macandal's history and film a documentary. I interviewed dozens of historians, teachers ("Griyo") and secret society priests who were well-versed in the oral tradition relevant to Macandal. I visited key sites in the north plain of Haiti where Macandal fomented the revolution to end black slavery. Paul Krawiec and I were the first Westerners I know of permitted to trek deep into the heart of Limbe to photograph the plantation of Lenormand de Mezy, where Macandal spent most of his young adult life as a slave (shown in documentary). I also retrieved papers about the period in the archival libraries of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Paris, France. With the generous support of Vern Vihlene and George Adams, and after months of post-production, the one-hour documentary was completed in December, 1997 and appeared on PBS in 1998.
It is a startling fact, known by few, that though Macandal came from the Christianized Congo, Macandal knew Arabic and may have been raised Muslim. Macandal probably knew first hand, the roots of Muslim-Christian animosity. Macandal used this knowledge to convince thousands of slaves to re-cast their history and accept a new birthright. Africa was actually succeeding ahead of Europe during the early middle ages. Education, culture, cosmopolitan trade, with new civilizations, were flourishing there during the 11th-15th centuries. Beautiful cities on the eastern coast were filled with Nubian Africans, Asians, Islamic-Arabs, Europeans and many others, flocking to Kilwa, Mombassa, Zimbabwe and other great centers of trade in Africa.
But Europe was steeped in poverty and a papal decree had targeted Muslims in Europe as enemies of the Church. This poverty drove. The Mid-Atlantic Slave Trade and the assault on Africa was termed a "Holy War" against Islam. Now we think of the term "Holy War" or "Jihad" as only applying to modern Islamic Fundamentalists but the roots are much deeper. Most would conclude that the primary motivation for the Church and European mercenaries was profit and it should not be viewed as coincidence that cannons first appear on ships at the same time the Portuguese begin the foray into Africa and launch the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The advance in weapons technology gave the Portuguese the ability to take resources and slaves with little resistance and doom both Africa and Haiti. Macandal did not associate himself with any religion during his revolution, no doubt aware of the role both Islam and Christianity played in promoting slavery.
With newly invented guns and cannons and the boom in sugar demand, the Church authorized the black African slave trade. I propose it was impossible for the Portuguese to enlist the aid of tribes to seize other tribes for slaves, because the African natives were not predisposed to wars and rarely engaged in them. Only because of the threat of terror and coerced imbibing of a mixture of gun powder and alcohol (causing a violent reaction similar to "Angel Dust"), did the Africans from Dahomey proceed to become the first tribes to practice Voodoo and make war against other tribes for slaves.
Historians to this day hold fast to the notion that the African Kings themselves were complicit in the slave trade. But I propose Europeans were only able to generate and sustain inter-tribal warfare for slaves through intimidation, pseudo-friendship and force, using guns and alcohol, exactly the same tactic used against the indigenous people throughout the Americas. Africa then became a holocaust, with fatherless boys, broken families and severed homelands the resulting plight of 24-48 million during the next 400 years. I submit that Macandal knew this history and was so deft and incisive in his rhetoric relative to Christianity, Islam and Slavery, that his words and attacks brought the institution down. His real story may re-cast African history, revealing the brilliance of Macandal and his belief in education and describe how Macandal united slaves and freemen to revolution. Macandal is the person most responsible for ending slavery and colonialism.
My historical fiction novel spans generations and connects many important stories from several continents. The conclusion is arousing, emotional and powerful with far-reaching implications for the modern world. Every child and adult needs to learn of this story because it may alter racist and religious perception. Through Macandal we see an entirely different view of African and European history. The mercenary character John Cain weaves in the cataclysmic events of a worldwide uprising against colonialism. The story explains what occurred in Africa before the slave trade and why cohesive governments have not been able to form there.
aka The Story of Mackendal, Mackandal, Makandal or Makendal
My novel Black Millennium is about a young boy raised deep in the Congo during the early 18th Century. He was part of a hidden tribe which had not been converted to Christianity by the Portuguese or Kongo Kings and had knowledge of Animist and Islamic traditions. Captured to be a slave at the age of 12, he was taken to the "New World." To the amazement of the French in St. Domingue, now Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, Macandal could speak, read and write Arabic fluently and he rapidly learned to speak and read French to the point that he was noted as being more articulate than even the French. He secretly obtained and read a copy of the Bible, so that he was well versed in both Christianity and Islam. The French were violently opposed to slaves learning to read and write so Macandal had to become proficient in the French language secretly, during moments not spent toiling in the fields, when no overseers were near.
Macandal had a vast knowledge of plants and became a doctor. So skilled was he that even the French sought his help in favor of their own physicians. Macandal could paint, play music and sculpt with remarkable skill. He became known for his charisma and wit and was very popular among the other slaves, inspiring them with long forgotten stories of ancient Africa and giving them new hope. One French Jesuit priest, Father Duquesnoy, supported Macandal and may have helped him to become well versed in Christian theology, which Macandal would use later in cryptic declarations to rouse slaves by the thousands to join the revolution to free all slaves. He shocked black slaves by his bold and reckless battles and convinced them that they were not condemned by God to be slaves.
According to one account related in Carolyn Fick's highly regarded work, The Making of Haiti,Macandal fell in love with a beautiful house slave and when their love for each other was discovered, Macandal was sentenced to death. With some kind of mystical display, Macandal miraculously escaped despite a vicious torture scene and heavy guard detail. Macandal fled into the mountains of St. Domingue and began to rouse thousands of slaves to revolution, not to continue his own freedom, but to see the absolute end of slavery. This was an unheard of concept and he is the first and only, in 400 years of slave history, known to do so.
For 12 years he recruited, fought battles and mysteriously escaped capture over and over. I contend the "Macandal Revolution" caused the "Haitian Revolution," which became the only successful independence movement by slaves. Historical documents sought to conceal his victories and maintain the appearance of French prowess but the French, with all of their armies, were completely defeated. They were soon followed in defeat by every other European power. Perhaps because of Macandal's brilliance and success, Europeans could no longer ignore the plight of the slaves. Before Macandal, many Europeans believed the popular view that slaves were living happy lives being converted from heathenism. The "Macandal Revolution" demonstrated that slaves were not happy and reports of murder and grotesque torture filtered into European churches. The import of the incredible revolution Macandal started is shattering. The fearless and ruthless pirate mercenary John Cain represents the growing number of Europeans who were themselves violently opposed to slavery and fought to have it exterminated.
Particularly astounding were prophecies made by Macandal. Read about them in my historical novel Black Millennium and watch the one-hour documentary The Black Messiahto see the actual places Macandal lived in slavery and then escaped from. See where he hid out and began his uprising with fiery revolutionary speeches. Hear Macandal's prophecies re-counted by modern-day Haitians and feel how electrifying they were for the times. Understand the deeper reasons behind modern Islamic Fundamentalism and Islamic Jihad and how the animosity between Muslims and Christians began. New world leaders like Barack Obama and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Bono of U2 have worked hard to understand what can be done to improve Africa and the lives of Africans. Read how Macandal's actions and words may present startling and powerful solutions to modern problems. Thank you for your interest in Macandal.