Our new text for the Spring of 2016 is titled “Account of a remarkable Conspiracy formed by a Negro in the Island of St. Domingo.” This work–essentially a short story–first appeared in the important French journal, the Mercure de France, in 1787, with the title “Makandal, a true story.” It was widely reprinted in Britain, with some changes made in characterization and context, and in the 1790s it began appearing in an array of US magazines and newspapers. The text gives the history of Francois Makandal, a prominent maroon leader in Saint-Domingue in the 1750s. He was accused by the French colonial authorities of poisoning thousands of slave-owners and slaves, and was captured and burned alive in 1758. The reprintings of the 1790s coincide with regular reportage of events from Saint-Domingue and a growing discussion of slavery. The text is short–just over 4,200 words–and is introduced and annotated with details exploring the differences between French and English editions. It is a remarkable text, and we believe it opens up a range of topics for classroom consideration, including: issues related to circum-Atlantic rebellions by enslaved people, questions about diasporic African religious and medical practices, and the early US fascination with issues related to Saint-Domingue.
<!–Following are excerpts from responses written by participants who have included this text in their teachings. To read the essays in their entirety, click on the “more” link at the end of each excerpt.