In his 2015 book “The Island of Memes: Haiti’s Unfinished Revolution,” Dr. Wade W.

Nobles brings the original meaning of “memes” to the forefront in the context of the world’s

only successful slave insurrection. As Nobles, a professor emeritus at San Francisco State

University, explains, memes are “sensorial information structures” that shape a group’s

collective identity, culture and understanding of their positionality in the world. These

structures are passed down “from one generation to the next while preserving their core

content or meaning,” mirroring the processes of biological gene transmission.

In this compact guide to understanding the physical, spiritual, epistemological and

psychological elements at play in the unparalleled revolution, Nobles pushes readers to re-

imagine the quest for liberation from an African-centered historical perspective supported by

black psychology. Through this lens, the reader not only explores the key memetic ideations

and symbols that influenced the Haitian Revolution from its inception at the Bois Caïman

vodou ceremony on Aug. 14, 1791, to its completion on Jan. 1, 1804 but also the resulting

ideations that form native and diasporic consciousness today.

Nobles wastes no words. From the onset, he establishes the framework of African

psychology, then continues to tackle the primary elements of the revolution and the

consciousness of those who executed it: the tug and pull between colonial and ancestral

ideologies, the brutal realities of enslavement in the colony of Hispaniola, the contrasting

leadership styles of the revolution’s top architects, along with the deliberate imperial

sabotage to stifle Haiti’s sovereignty. He nestles the reader’s exploration in a sturdy bed of

facts and figures, leaving no dates, numbers, documents or names out of the picture.

For example, when introducing Jean Jacques Dessalines, the revolutionary who would

become the newly independent republic’s first leader, Nobles asserts that his story “could not

be completely told without speaking of the women in his life.” He proceeds to pay homage to

the caretakers responsible for nurturing Dessalines’ prowess, thus honoring these women’s

contributions to the revolution. Each sentence plays a critical role in shaping the reader’s

grasp of the whole story of the revolution, many passages warranting a double or triple take

to ensure that nothing was missed. His to-the-point recollections evoke visceral responses

without the use of dramatization, as theatrics prove unnecessary when the bare facts speak

volumes on their own.

This text reminds those suffering under the yoke of oppression in the Western Hemisphere

that the blueprint for liberation can be found in Haiti. It’s there, buried beneath vengeful

political interventions exacted by imperial powers, disparaging media representations and

most recently, as Nobles addresses, the rubble of the 2010 earthquake. Haiti’s current state of

sociopolitical chaos is no coincidence; the violent consequences of daring to be free plague

the Caribbean nation until this day. And as the title of Nobles’ book declares, until a remedy

is found, the revolution continues.

Danette Frederique is a first-generation Haitian-American committed to promoting health, wellness, and empowerment in her community. She is a registered yoga teacher and graduate student pursuing her Master of Science in Counseling at Johns Hopkins University.