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The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) was a slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which culminated in the elimination of slavery there and the founding of the Republic of Haiti. The Haitian Revolution was the only slave revolt which led to the founding of a state. Furthermore, it is generally considered the most successful slave rebellion ever to have occurred and as a defining moment in the histories of both Europe and the Americas. The revolt began with a rebellion of black African slaves in April of 1791. It ended in November of 1803 with the French defeat at the Battle of Vertières. Haiti became an independent country on January 1, 1804, with Jean-Jacques Dessalines being chosen by a council of generals to assume the office of governor-general. He ordered the 1804 Haiti Massacre of the white Haitian minority, resulting in the deaths of between 3,000 and 5,000 people, between February and April 1804.

Although an independent government was created in Haiti, the country's society continued to be deeply affected by the patterns established under French colonial rule. Because many white planters had provided for the mixed-race children they had by black African women, by giving them education and (for males) training and entrée into the French military, the mulatto descendants who along with the wealthy freedmen had been orchestrators of the revolution, became the elite of Haitian society after the war's end. Many of them had used their social capital to acquire wealth, and some already owned land. Some had identified more with the colonists than the slaves.

Their domination of politics and economics after the revolution created another two-caste society, as most Haitians were rural subsistence farmers. In addition, the nascent state's future was compromised in 1825 when it was forced to pay 150 million gold francs in reparations to French slaveholders, in order to receive French recognition and end the nation's political and economic isolation. Though the amount of the reparations was reduced in 1838, Haiti was unable to finish paying off its debt until 1947, and the payments left the country's government deeply impoverished, causing instability.

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