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Jana Evans Braziel, Assistant Professor
229B Mc Micken Hall
Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of Cincinnati
ML 210069
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069
Office # (513) 556-0834
Fax # (513) 556-5960

Brief History of the Republic of Haiti / République d’Haïti / Repiblik dAyiti

1492  Christopher Columbus arrived in Hispaniola; the Arawak Indians destroyed a fort built by Columbus’ crew and killed the men who had been left behind to  guard the fort.

1697-1790 Birth of the colony of Saint Domingue and the beginning of slavery in the Caribbean (slave, sugar and cane trades); the eastern end of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic) had been colonized by the Spanish.

1791 Period of political turmoil marked by slavery revolts and struggles for independence; inspired by the French Revolution of 1789, the slaves rebelled under the political leadership of François Toussaint-Louverture and the military leadership of Henri Christophe and Jean-Jacques Dessalines.

1802 Napoleon I sent a French army under General Charles Leclerc to subdue the Haitian slave revolt.  Although Leclerc captured Toussaint, the slave rebels led by Dessalines and Christophe defeated the French.

1804 On January 1, 1804, the colony of Saint Domingue was declared independent and renamed Haiti.  Dessalines assumed the political leadership of Haiti as Emperor Jacques I.  He was assassinated shortly after he assumed leadership and was succeeded by Christophe as king.  Christophe’s leadership was challenged unsucessfully, by a group of mulattoes led by Alexandre Petion who then established a separate state in the southern part of Haiti.

1820 Suicide of Henri Christophe.  After Christophe’s suicide, Jean Pierre Boyer, Petion’s southern successor reunited Haiti.

1844 Separation of eastern Hispaniola from Haiti; establishment of an independent country, the Domincan Republic.

1860 Signing of Concordat with the Vatican making Catholicism the “official religion,” although popular belief, called voodoo or obeah, still included a syncretic form of Catholocism mixed with the Yoruban mythology of western Africa.  French was made the “official language,” although most Haitians spoke, and still speak, a form of French patios or Creole.

1915-1934 U.S. occupation of Haiti; instability of the Haitian government subsequent to military occupation by the United States.

1937  Massacre of Haitian cane laborers in the Dominican Republic under Dictator Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo's command.

1957 François (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier became president of Haiti.  Although he was elected president, he revised the constitution of Haiti in 1964 to extend his presidency for “life.”  Trained as a medical doctor, Duvalier, a brutal dictator, undertook measures to ‘creolize’ the church, leading to the expulsion of French and other international Catholic bishops from Haiti.  Although voodoo flourished under Duvalier, he also utilized the citizens’ fear of voodoo to maintain his power.

Duvalier maintained his absolute power through the military support of a private army called the Tonton Macoutes, commonly referred to as the “bogeymen.”

1969      Birth of Edwidge Danticat in Haiti.

1971 Death of “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who was succeeded on the throne by his nineteen year old son, Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) Duvalier.  He also declared himself “ruler for life.”

1981      Migration of Danticat to New York to join her parents.

1986 Although repression diminished under ‘Baby Doc,’ thousands of Haitian exiles fled from Haiti, and in 1986, following popular protests in 1985 and a Haitian revolt in 1986, Duvalier himself went into exile.  An interim government headed by Lt. Gen Henri Namphy was established but remained weak.

1987 In March 1987, a new constitution was approved which established a  tripartite government that included a president, a prime minister and a bicameral legislature.  The first elections were schedule to be held on November 29, 1987, but had to be cancelled because of terrorist attacks against voters.

1988 President elections were held in January 1988, and university professor Leslie Manigat was elected the new Haitian president.  Manigat’s presidenty was quickly overthrown, however, by Lt. Gen. Namphy, who also abolished the National Assembly and declared himself “military president.”

In September 1988, Namphy was deposed by Gen. Prosper Avril who ostensibly “sought to re-establish democracy” in Haiti, although he was dictatorial in his rule.  A subsequent coup d’etat led Avril to resign and the presidency was briefly assumed by the Supreme Court judge Ertha Pascal-Trouillot.

1990 Election of Jean Bertrand Aristide as Haiti’s new president in December 1990.

1991 Aristide deposed by a brutal military coup led by Gen. Raoul Cedras and sent into exile only eight months after his election in September 1991.

1991-93 Western-hemisphere trade embargos led by the Organization of American States (OAS), comprised of countries from both North and South America, were imposed to denounce the military coup and the deposition of Aristide.  The United Nations also imposed a boycott.

Massive exodus of Haitian refugees, referred to as ‘the boat people’ (an appellation that had earlier been used to describe Vietnamese refugees).  At first, the United States callously returned the refugees to Haiti; later, they were housed in refugee camps at the U.S. military base on Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

1993 In July 3, 1993, the military agreed to return Aristide to power and restore democracy to Haiti by October 1995; however, the military broke the UN-bartered agreement that would return Aristide to power and prevented his return to Haiti.

1994 On September 18, 1994, the U.S. government began sending troops to Haiti in order to secure Aristide’s return; this initiative led to the end of military rule under threat of U.S.-invasion.  Cedras and his high military leaders were exiled; Aristide returned to Haiti protected by U.S. troops.  End of OAS and UN boycotts.  Refugees housed in camps ob Guantanamo Bay were also returned to Haiti.

Publication of Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory.

1995 Withdrawal of U.S. troops occurred in March 1995, though some UN “peacekeeping forces” remained stationed in Haiti.

In June 1995, parliamentary and local elections were successfully held, although reports of “voting irregularities” surfaced.  In late 1995, René Preval (a member of Aristide’s political coalition) was elected president, taking office in January 1996.

Publication of Danticat’s Krick? Krack!.

1996 In April 1996, the remaining troops, who were part of the UN “peacekeeping forces” were withdrawn from Haiti.

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