Review of "1804: The Hidden History of Haiti" (original at Haitian History Blog)

Marlene Daut's picture


1804: the hidden history of haiti

1804: The Hidden History of Haiti is, despite being a problematic documentary, surprisingly better than one would think. Although less accurate and including fewer reputable “experts” and scholars of the Haitian Revolution than the PBS Égalité for All: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution, it successfully connects Haiti to pan-Africanism, Afrocentrism, and Black struggles of today. And despite the occasional absurd or nonsensical claim, the film does possess a general structure which is an affirmation of Haiti and Black people. This is to be praised as well for promoting the study of Haiti and links between African Americans and Haiti, regardless of how one feels about the political aims or message of Tariq Nasheed and the Hidden Colors franchise.

However, the documentary’s abundant inconsistencies and errors weaken something with honorable intentions. Early in the documentary, one of the few Haitians who speaks in the film, Ezili Danto, claims Africans were living in the island of Hispaniola before Columbus. But this unsubstantiated claim is never explained, nor does Danto refer to the work of Ivan Van Sertima, which has been thoroughly debunked or at least seriously challenged. Another Haitian, Bayyinah Bello, appears in the film, but made errors (such as claiming Francisco de Miranda was from Ecuador). In addition to her grand claim about a pre-Columbian African past in Hispaniola, Danto offered a narrative on the Bois Caiman ceremony the reviewer never encountered previously. An English rapper, Akala, by far the most perceptive, well-read, and informed commentator, contradicted her account with a far more plausible narrative, but this inconsistency was never fully explained.

Read the full review here: