Jasmine Grant-Phillips -- Zombies

Here is an essay on Zombies by Jasmine Grant-Phillips:

Unit 5: Political Revolutions and Governance Essay

The symbolic idea behind zombies played a large role in both the French and Haititan Revolutions. The French Revolution took place from 1789-1815 when, after helping America with their battles against Britain, France was in a state of bankruptcy. As a result of this, taxes were raised, there were shortages of food, and many people were forced to work longer hours without much, if any, additional pay. These factors led to a social upheaval against the French monarchy and were the cause of the French Revolution. Following some of the ideas of the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution took place from 1791-1804. In the French Carribean colony then called Saint Domingue, the ideas of the French Revolution caused conflicts between the upper-class and lower-class white people, the free people of color, and the enslaved people on the colony. To the upper-class white people, the French Revolution meant less restrictions on trade and more of a self-governed state while the lower-class wanted more equality for all white people. To the free people of color, all free people should’ve been equal regardless of their race, but for enslaved people the French Revolution meant their possible freedom from slavery. The fighting that followed between all groups of people with these conflicting ideas was the Haititan Revolution.

The negative aspects of being a zombie are most focused on based on the sources we have read/listened to. We mostly learned about the fears of becoming a zombie, but not a lot about the power that could come with it. Many enslaved people were scared of adapting a soulless way of living as a result of working endlessly everyday without a true home and often without family- it was as though their lives belonged to someone else. “[An enslaved person] becomes in a sense a machine of production [...} from dawn until sunset ‘all I’m going to do is work’ and therefore the loss of the will, symbolically speaking, this person becomes a zombie.” However, the enslavers also feared zombies because of the danger they created in such large groups. Becoming a zombie where you live basically without a will to live ensures that you can fight for a cause you believe in without fearing for your life. “The zombie is this unbelievably fearful thing on both ends [...] if you’re the planter the zombie is your biggest fear because that’s the revolutionary.” Being a zombie means that you will wholeheartedly fight for a cause that you believe in and there is not much that would be able to stop you.

Zombies help us understand the events of the French and Haitian Revolutions by illustrating the dangers of large groups of people all wholeheartedly fighting for the same cause. During the French Revolution “some peasants attacked the residences of their lords, burning the documents that recorded their dues and payments.” As a result of their strong discontent with the French monarchy, the citizens in France revolted against the people in the highest group of French hierarchy- kings, queens, lords, etc. These French citizens could have been considered zombies in a way because of the quantity of additional work they had to do for minimal, and sometimes no, pay. They faced raises in taxes and shortages in food, and eventually started an uprising against the French monarchy. Furthermore, towards the beginning of the Haitian Revolution “in a massive revolt beginning in 1791, triggered by rumors that the French king had already declared an end to slavery, slaves burned 1,000 plantations and killed hundreds of whites as well as mixed-race people.” Through the hope that slavery was ending, the enslaved people in what was then Saint-Domingue fought for their freedom during the Haitian Revolution. By becoming zombies as a result of slavery, they were made to feel as though their lives were meaningless and that they only meant to work, but being free would make the enslaved people truly feel as though their lives gained back their meaning. Being zombies also meant that they could put their all into the fight against the enslavers in the French colony without being afraid of what they could lose if they failed.

We can use the idea of zombies to understand the motivations behind political revolutions and how governance played a role in these revolutions. The motivation behind the French Revolution was the way the citizens were being treated and overworked to a point where they could potentially feel as though they were zombies. “The famous French writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau had told [the French society] that it was ‘manifestly contrary to the law of nature… that a handful of people should gorge themselves with superfluidities while the hungry multitude goes in want of necessities’”. This portrays the way in which citizens were being treated unfairly by the French monarchy and once they decided to revolt, there was a big change in the governance of the country. Additionally, in the context of the Haititan Revolution, the fear of becoming zombies and the desire for free will were some of the main motives of the enslaved people fighting in this revolution. Afterwards, once they had become free and independent, they established their own country and renamed it Haiti. Some of the main rules in Haiti were the exact notions they were fighting for such as “the people inhabiting the island formerly called St. Domingue, hereby agree to form themselves into a free state sovereign and independent of any other power in the universe, under the name of empire of Hayti” and that “slavery is forever abolished”. It was through the revolution that they made a new government and country as a whole, and understanding what it really means to be a zombie helps show the value of political revolutions and the large impact they can have.


This is a depiction of the enslaved people in what was then Saint-Domingue fighting against the white French citizens in the colony. This illustration helps to highlight some of the very violent aspects of the Haititan Revolution as well as the power that could come from zombies.