Dutty Boukman (also known as Boukman Dutty) (died 7 November 1791) was an African man, enslaved in Jamaica and later in Haiti. He is considered both a maroon leader and Vodou hougan (priest) and was an early leader of the Haitian Revolution.
According to some contemporary accounts Boukman alongside Cécile Fatiman, a Vodou mambo, presided over the religious ceremony at Bois Caïman, in August 1791, that served as a catalyst of the 1791 slave revolt which marks the beginning of the Haitian Revolution.
Boukman was a key leader of the slave revolt in the Le Cap‑Français region in the north of the colony. He was killed by the French planters and colonial troops in 7 November 1791.
Dutty Boukman was a Holy Koran-educated slave born on the island of Jamaica. After he attempted to teach other slaves how to read, he was sold to a French plantation owner and placed as a commandeur (slave driver) and, later, a coach driver. His French name came from his English nickname, "Book Man," which some scholars, despite accounts suggesting that he was a Vodou houngan, have interpreted as meaning that he was a Muslim, since in many Muslim regions the term "man of the book" is a synonym for an adherent of the Islamic faith. One scholar suggests that it is likely that Boukman "was a Jamaican Muslim who had a Quran, and that he got his nickname from this." Other scholars suggest that Boukman may have practiced a syncretic blend of traditional African religion and a form of Christianity. Boukman was killed by the French in November 1791, just a few months after the beginning of the uprising. The French then publicly displayed Boukman's head in an attempt to dispel the aura of invincibility that Boukman had cultivated.The fact that French authorities had to do this shows just how much of an impact Boukman made on the views of Haitian people during this time.
According to some contemporaneous accounts, on or about 14 August 1791 Boukman presided over a ceremony at the Bois Caïman in the role of houngan (priest) together with priestess Cécile Fatiman. Boukman prophesied that the slaves Jean François, Biassou, and Jeannot would be leaders of a resistance movement and revolt that would free the slaves of Saint-Domingue. An animal was sacrificed, an oath was taken, and Boukman and the priestess exhorted the listeners to take revenge against their French oppressors and "[c]ast aside the image of the God of the oppressors."
According to Gothenburg University researcher Markel Thylefors, "The event of the Bois Caïman ceremony forms an important part of Haitian national identity as it relates to the very genesis of Haiti." This ceremony came to be characterized by various Christian sources as a "pact with the devil" that began the Haitian Revolution.
According to the Encyclopedia of African Religion, "Blood from the animal was given in a drink to the attendees to seal their fates in loyalty to the cause of liberation of Saint-Domingue." A week later, 1800 plantations had been destroyed and 1000 slaveholders killed. Boukman was not the first to attempt a slave uprising in Saint-Domingue, as he was preceded by others, such as Padrejean in 1676, and François Mackandal in 1757. However, his large size, warrior-like appearance, and fearsome temper made him an effective leader and helped spark the Haitian Revolution.
In the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, veteran Christian radio and television personality Pat Robertson claimed that Haiti had been "cursed by one thing after another" since the late 18th century and, in an apparent reference to the Bois Caïman ceremony, revived the allegation that Haitians had sworn a "pact to the devil." This view was criticized by urban legend expert Rich Buehler, who claimed that Robertson's statement was incorrect on a variety of historical points, and propagated a common claim that vodou is Satanic in nature.
Several Mainline and evangelical Christian voices criticized Robertson's remarks as misleading, untimely and insensitive.