Awakening the Ashes

An Intellectual History of the Haitian Revolution

By Marlene L. Daut

440 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 halftones, 1 table

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7684-5
    Published: October 2023
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7474-2
    Published: October 2023
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7475-9
    Published: September 2023

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Awards & distinctions

Honorable Mention, 2024 Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Book Prize, French Colonial Historical Society

Finalist, 2024 Pauli Murray Book Prize, African American Intellectual History Society

Honorable Mention, 2023 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards (History)

A Black Perspectives's Best Black History Books of 2023

The Haitian Revolution was a powerful blow against colonialism and slavery, and as its thinkers and fighters blazed the path to universal freedom, they forced anticolonial, antislavery, and antiracist ideals into modern political grammar. The first state in the Americas to permanently abolish slavery, outlaw color prejudice, and forbid colonialism, Haitians established their nation in a hostile Atlantic World. Slavery was ubiquitous throughout the rest of the Americas and foreign nations and empires repeatedly attacked Haitian sovereignty. Yet Haitian writers and politicians successfully defended their independence while planting the ideological roots of egalitarian statehood.

In Awakening the Ashes, Marlene L. Daut situates famous and lesser-known eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Haitian revolutionaries, pamphleteers, and political thinkers within the global history of ideas, showing how their systems of knowledge and interpretation took center stage in the Age of Revolutions. While modern understandings of freedom and equality are often linked to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man or the US Declaration of Independence, Daut argues that the more immediate reference should be to what she calls the 1804 Principle that no human being should ever again be colonized or enslaved, an idea promulgated by the Haitians who, against all odds, upended French empire.

About the Author

Marlene L. Daut is professor of French and African American studies at Yale University.
For more information about Marlene L. Daut, visit the Author Page.


"[A] magisterial recounting of Haiti’s intellectual history . . . . The book is the latest in Daut’s constellation of works on the Caribbean intellectual tradition, and Daut is herself one of the most dynamic contemporary voices on Haiti."—Laurent Dubois, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Daut superbly captures how Haitians reflected on their self-created sovereignty amid endless French and American attempts to undermine and negate what the Haitians had so painfully achieved."—CHOICE

"[Daut] has distinguished herself as both a perceptive catalyst for new scholarly thought and an architect for epistemological frameworks. She courageously illustrates the deficit in historical thinking regarding the place of Haiti in Atlantic world intellectual thought. She, likewise, carefully and painstakingly introduces Haitian writers to rearrange ideas and guide readers to satisfying places of fresh understanding . . . . a splendidly researched, richly enlightening journey of early Haitian poetry, novels, newspapers, and political and historical writings that relocates Haiti at the center of nineteenth-century thought on liberty and equality."—H-Diplo

"By exposing the intellectual contributions of nineteenth-century Haitian scholars and leaders to our modern understanding of freedom and equality, Daut shows the ongoing racism of current intellectual genealogies and offers a new way of thinking about the fields of colonial and postcolonial studies."—Julia Gaffield, author of Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution

"Daut brings alive Haiti's fascinating intellectual history and shows brilliantly how Haitian thinkers shaped the culture and politics of their own country even as they transformed broader understandings of race, revolution, and the writing of history. This powerful and necessary book challenges us to think differently about the global history of thought."—Laurent Dubois, author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History