( The Root ) -- The Haitian Revolution lasted 13 years before the nation, known then as Saint-Domingue, gained independence from France and became the world's first free black republic. It actually took two declarations to achieve that historic marker: Toussaint L'Ouverture led the island slave revolt to a short-lived victory over British and Spanish colonizers in 1801. By 1804 Jean-Jacques Dessalines had succeeded him and defeated French forces; he was the country's first president.

Actor Jimmy Jean-Louis. (Chris Pizzello/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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