Known initially as the French Saint Domingue, Haiti was once one of the most wealthy and productive European colonies of its day. During that time, the social structure of the colony was divided into roughly three groups. The first were the white colonists who owned the plantations and the slaves. The second were the free blacks and the third group, outnumbering the others by a ratio of ten to one, consisted of African-born slaves. Between the white colonists and black slaves, there had always been a long history of violent conflict. In 1791, slaves rebelled against the planters, initiating the Haitian Revolution. By 1801, the revolution had expanded beyond Haiti into the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic). The final battle of the revolution occurred in 1803 at the Battle of Vertieres, where revolutionaries defeated French forces. On January 1, 1804, the colony was declared an independent nation and renamed Haiti.
The Haitian Revolution was one of the events that solidified the idea brought forth by the French Revolution: that those oppressed could rise up against the oppressor. The biggest impact of the revolution in Haiti was the legacy it left in terms of a worldwide change in mindset. Haiti emerged from the war as the first black republic in the world and the second nation (after the US) to successfully gain independence from a European power. For the first time, slaves had defeated their oppressors on a large scale and this changed drastically changed the attitude the world had towards racial order. The event challenged the old colonial European order and became a model for the emancipation of slaves in the rest of the Atlantic World. It is even considered as one of the key influences that caused the decline in the Atlantic slave trade. Undoubtedly, the Haitian Revolution deeply affected the psychology of the world, bringing to light the sensitive issues of race, color, and status.