The History of Haiti
This compilation will help highlight the history of a truly resilient people who fought off slavery and survived civil wars, kidnappings, countless massacres and oppressive leadership both in the homefront and abroad. The Haitians proclaimed themselves the first black independent republic in the world in 1804, and have remained so to this day, despite the fact that foreign aggressors are on Haitian soil.
December 5, 1492
Columbus "discovers" Haiti (the island of Hispaniola) Although the land was visited before by explorers like Marco Polo and others, the Italian expedition laid claim for the discovery of the land mass known as Haiti.
The Spaniards cede the western third of Hispaniola to the French crown at the Treaty of Ryswick. Haiti was called "Saint Domingue".
Saint Domingue became the richest colony in the world. Its capital, Cap Français, was known as the Paris of the New World. It was also a regime of extraordinary cruelty. The 500,000 slaves taken by the French were starved and buried alive for minor offenses.
The first major black rebellion took place, initiated by Boukman-a voodoo priest. Other accounts relate that Boukman was Muslim and believed to be from Jamaica. This begins the markings of civil war between the black dominated north and the mulatto dominated south.
Toussaint L'Ouverture, an educated herb doctor and military man, emerged as the leader of the former slaves in the north. He restored order, ended the massacres, and restored some of Saint Domingue's former prosperity. Toussaint, however, believed in running Haiti for the French. Haiti's first constitution (The Constitution of 1801) gave Haitians French nationality.
Napoleon Bonaparte dispatched his army to subdue the slave army and retake the colony for France. Napoleon's mission was unsuccessful. The leader of the army Leclerc ultimately had Toussaint L'Ouverture seized and deported to France. He died within a year.
1802 January 29
Napoléon Bonaparte sends an expeditionary fleet to St-Domingue under the command of his brother-in-law, General Leclerc. The fleet anchored in Samana Bay with the mission to defeat the black generals and restored slavery.
French vessels arrived off the harbor of Cap-Français.
Henri Christophe sets Cap-Français on fire to resist the French troops.
Toussaint L'ouverture is defeated at the Battle of Ravine a Couleuvres by the army of Napoleon.
To resist French invasion at the Battle of La Crete-a-Pierrot, Dessalines gathers his troops. Then by swaying a lighted torch near the powder magazine, he fiercely declares that he would blow up the fortress should the French troops invade it.
Toussaint L'Ouverture is defeated by the army of Napoleon.
Convention in Paris reintroduced slavery, which brings on more rebellions and massacres.
Toussaint L'Ouverture arrived in the city of Cap to surrender to the French army and to negotiate his submission.
Toussaint L'Ouverture was arrested through treachery by the French general, Leclerc. He was first embarked on the vessel La Creole, then sent to France on the vessel Le Heros. He was incarcerated in the jail of Fort de joux, located in the apex of the icy jura mountains of France.
Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Alexandre Petion met in the Haut-du-Cap to organize the independence war under the command of the appointed Commander-in-Chief Dessalines.
The French general, Leclerc, brother-in-law of Napoleon, dies of yellow fever in St-Domingue. His remains are sent back to France.
1803 April 7
Approaching his 60th birthday, Toussaint L'Ouverture died of ill treatment in France, in the Fort de Joux prison.
The Haitian flag was created in Arcahaie during a meeting between Dessalines and Petion. They tore off the white middle section of the blue, white and red French flag and joined the blue and red pieces symbolizing the unity of blacks and mulattoes. The flag was sewn by Catherine Flon.
The Battle of Vertières, the final battle for independence. Blacks and mulattoes led by Dessalines and Petion defeated the army of Napoléon Bonaparte and won the war for independence.
Rochambeau, the French general succeeding Leclerc, signed a convention to surrender his troops and evacuated St-Domingue.
Dessalines arrived triumphantly in the city of Cap with his army. Christophe and Clerveaux issued a preliminary proclamation of independence. Rochambeau was then a British prisoner.
The French army ceded Mole Saint-Nicolas to the army of Dessalines. The fight for independence of the colony was officially terminated.
The Haitian blue and red flag was selected in Arcahie, by taking the French tricolor, turning it on its side and removing the white band. The Battle of Vertières on November 18, 1803 marked the ultimate victory of the former slaves over the French.
Jean Jacques Dessalines proclaimed the first independent black republic in the world (Haiti). This republic was the second country in the western hemisphere to be free besides the United States.
ACT OF INDEPENDENCE-LIBERTY OR DEATH
Gonaïves, January 1, 1804 | Year 1 of Independence
Today, January 1, 1804, the General in Chief of the Indigenous Army, accompanied by generals and army chiefs convoked in order to take measures tending to the happiness of the country:
After having made known to the assembled generals his true intention of forever ensuring to the natives of Haiti a stable government - the object of his greatest solicitude, which he did in a speech that made known to foreign powers the resolution to render the country independent, and to enjoy the liberty consecrated by the blood of the people of this island; and, after having gathered their opinions, asked each of the assembled generals to pronounce a vow to forever renounce France; to die rather than to live under its domination; and to fight for independence with their last breath.
The generals, imbued with these sacred principles, after having with one voice given their adherence to the well manifested project of independence, have all sworn before eternity and before the entire universe to forever renounce France and to die rather than live under its domination.
Signed: Dessalines General-in-Chief
Major Generals: Christophe, Pétion, Clerveaux, Vernet, Gabart
Brigadier Generals: P.Romain, G. Gérin, L. Capois, Jean-Louis François, Férou, Cangé, G. Bazelais Magloire Ambroise, J.J. Herne, Toussaint Brave, Yayou
Adjutants-General: Bonet, F. Paplier, Morelly, Chevalier, Marion
Brigade Chiefs: Magny, Roux
Army Officers: Chaperon, B. Goret, Macajoux, Dupuy, Carbonne, Diaquoi aîné Raphaël, Malet, Derenoncourt
Boisrond Tonnerre, Secretary
Civil war racked the country, which was divided into the northern kingdom of Henri Christophe, and the southern republic governed by Alexandre Pétion. Faced with a rebellion by his own army, Christophe committed suicide, paving the way for Jean-Pierre Boyer to reunify the country and become President of the entire republic in 1820. After the demise of Henri Christophe, Haiti was overtaken by General Boyer, and civil war ceased.
Henry Christophe committed suicide by shooting himself with a silver bullet. Some believed that he was a tyrannical ruler, reinstituted the Haitian Monarchy, built a lavish palace and citadel-believed at some point to be one of the wonders of the world at Cap-Haitian in the northern part of Haiti. Such accomplishments were at great cost to Haitian lives.
President Boyer invaded Santo Domingo following its declaration of independence from Spain. The entire island is now controlled by Haiti until 1844.
Boyer paid the ransom demanded by France at the price of $150 million French francs yearly for over one hundred years. France recognized Haitian independence in exchange for a financial indemnity of $150 million francs. Most nations including the United States shunned Haiti for almost sixty years, fearful that Haiti's example could stir unrest in the US and in other slaveholding countries. Haiti was forced to take out loans to pay indemnity to France and gained international recognition. As a result of the overburdening debt caused by these enormous loans, most schools in Haiti were closed for long periods of time. The government was unable to provide basic services to its citizens, thus resulting in the economic catastrophe for the Haitian people. The current misery and poverty can be directly attributed to the government of France.
The United States finally grants Haiti diplomatic recognition sending noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass as its Consular Minister.
1843 to 1915
Haiti sees 22 heads of state, most of whom leave office by violent means. Rivalry continues among the whites, the mulatto elite, and the blacks.
President Guillaume Sam was dismembered and the Americans invaded the Haiti. They remained for 19 years. Despite improvements made to the infrastructure by the Americans, the Haitians opposed their presence.
U.S. Marines leave Haiti after 19 years, leaving behind a U.S. trained army to maintain control.
Haiti is the first Caribbean republic to sign a treaty with Washington encouraging private U.S. investment on very favorable terms.
François Duvalier, a doctor and union leader, was elected president. Duvalier, also known as 'Papa Doc', terrorized the country, rooting out any and all opponents to his administration. He was a vodun practitioner, his Loa being Baron Samedi, the guardian of cemeteries and a harbinger of death. He ensured his power through his private militia, the Tontons Macoutes (which means in kreyol, "uncle boogeyman").
Duvalier changes the constitution to ensure that he is president for life. In 1964, Dr. François Duvalier declares himself President-for-Life and forms the infamous paramilitary Tontons Macoutes. The corrupt Duvalier dictatorship marks one of the saddest chapters in Haitian history with tens of thousands killed or exiled.
François Duvalier dies and is succeeded by his son Jean Claude at the age of 19 (also known as 'Baby Doc'). By this time Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere (and remains so to this day).
The first Haitian "boat people" fleeing the country land in Florida.
Widespread protests against repression of the nation's press take place.
Jean-Claude Duvalier exploited international assistance and sought to attract investment leading to the establishment of textile-based assembly industries. Attempts by workers and political parties to organize are quickly and regularly crushed. Hundreds of human rights workers, journalists and lawyers are arrested and exiled from the country.
International aid agencies declare Haitian pigs to be carriers of African Swine Fever and institute a program for their slaughter. Attempts to replace indigenous swine with imported breeds largely fail.
Pope John Paul II visits Haiti and declared publicly that, "Things must change here."
Over 200 peasants are massacred at Jean-Rabel after demonstrating for access to land. The Haitian Bishop's Conference launches a nation-wide (but short-lived) literacy program. Anti-government riots take place in all major towns.
Massive anti-government demonstrations continue to take place around the country. Four schoolchildren are shot dead by soldiers-an event which unifies popular protest against the régime.
The Duvalier regime collapsed and Jean-Claude Duvalier and his acolytes fled to France.
A new Constitution was overwhelmingly approved by the population in March. General elections in November were aborted hours after they began with dozens of people shot by soldiers and the Tonton Macoutes in the capital, and scores more around the country.
Military controlled elections-widely abstained from-result in the installation of Leslie Manigat as President in January. Manigat was ousted by General Namphy four months later, and in November General Prosper Avril unseated Namphy.
President Avril, on a trade mission to Taiwan, returned empty-handed after grassroots-based democratic sectors informed Taiwanese authorities that the Haitian nation will not be responsible for any contracts agreed to by Prosper Avril. Upon his return, Avril ordered massive repression against political parties, unions, students and democratic organizations etc.
Avril declared a state of siege in January. Rising protests and pressures from the American Ambassador convinced Avril to resign. A State council was formed among democratic sectors, charged with running a Provisional Government led by Supreme Court Justice Ertha Pascal-Trouillot. U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle visits Haiti and tells Army leaders, "No more coups." Assistance is sought from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN) to help organize general elections in December.
In a campaign marred by occasional violence and death, democratic elections finally took place on December 16, 1990. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a parish priest, well known throughout the country for his support for the poor, was elected President with more than 67% of the popular vote. The "U.S. favorite" Marc Bazin finished a distant second with 14.2%. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected in a landslide victory.
March 5, 1990
Soldiers fire on demonstrators and kill an 11 year-old girl, Rosaline Vaval, in the southern city of Petit-Goâve. This death galvanizes the political opposition. Schools and shops close as demonstrators fill the streets despite the army's violent attempts to repress them.
March 10, 1990
General Avril resigns after the popular movement takes to the streets in nation-wide protest. Supreme Court justice Ertha Pascal-Trouillot is installed as interim President.
October 18, 1990
Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide announces his candidacy for president under the auspices of the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD).
December 16, 1990
Haiti successfully holds its first democratic election. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide wins 67% of the popular vote.
Duvalierist mutiny and former Tonton Macoute Dr. Roger Lafontant attempts a coup d'état to prevent Father Aristide's ascension to power. The Armed Forces quickly remove him from the National Palace following massive popular protest.
President Aristide was inaugurated on February 7th, five years after Duvalier's fall from power. A Government was formed by Prime Minister René Préval promising to uproot the corruption of the past. Over $500 million was promised in aid by the international community and never released.
In September, President Aristide addressed the UN General Assembly. Three days after his return, military personnel with financial backing from the old regime and their international allies unleashed a coup d'état, ousting President Aristide. Over 1,000 people were killed in the first days of the coup.
The OAS called for a hemisphere-wide embargo against the coup régime in support of the deposed constitutional authorities. A Military coup deposed Aristide's government, and the Organization of American states imposed an embargo lasting a little more than three years.
January 6, 1991
Roger Lafontant stages an unsuccessful attempted coup d'etat.
February 7, 1991
Aristide is inaugurated as President of the Republic of Haiti.
September 30, 1991
General Raoul Cédras orchestrates a coup d'état against President Aristide. Hundreds are killed in the first week of the coup. Aristide resides in Washington DC during most of his exile.
October 2, 1991
OAS condemns the coup and calls for a trade embargo. U.S. Sec. of State James Baker states, "It is imperative that we agree, for the sake of Haitian democracy and the cause of democracy throughout the hemisphere, to act collectively to defend the legitimate government of President Aristide."
October 7, 1991
In a rapid change of course, White House Spokesman Marlin Fitzwater states, "We don't know [if Aristide will return to power] in the sense that the government in his country is changing and considering any number of different possibilities."
Negotiations between the Washington, D.C.-based exiled government, Haiti's Parliament, and representatives of the coup régime headed by General Raoul Cédras lead to the Washington Protocol, which was ultimately scuttled by the coup régime.
U.S. President George Bush exempts U.S. factories from the embargo and orders U.S. Coast Guard to interdict all Haitians leaving the island in boats and to return them to Haiti.
The OAS embargo failed as goods continue to be smuggled through neighboring Dominican Republic. Haiti's legitimate authorities asked the United Nations to support a larger embargo in order to press the coup leaders to step down. The UN pledged to support efforts by the OAS to find a solution to the political crisis.
Bush administration unilaterally relaxes embargo to allow U.S. assembly plants to operate in Haiti.
February 24, 1992
Washington Protocols are signed between President Aristide and the Haitian Parliament in which Aristide agrees to replace his Prime Minister with a compromise candidate.
May 24, 1992
President Bush orders the U.S. Coast Guard to intercept all Haitians leaving the island in boats and return them to Haiti without hearing their claims for political asylum.
June 10, 1992
Marc Bazin is ratified by coup leaders as the de facto prime minister. Bazin had been the U.S.-favored presidential candidate in the 1990 elections.
President Clinton imposes a naval blockade to prevent Haitian refugees from fleeing to the U.S.
January 18, 1993
The Haitian population unanimously boycotts illegal elections.
US/OAS mission is deployed throughout Haiti to monitor human rights violations.
July 3, 1993
The Governors Island Accord is signed by President Aristide and coup leader Gen. Raoul Cédras. Cédras agrees to step down by Oct. 15, and President Aristide is scheduled to return on October 30. The agreement was made under UN/OAS auspices with intense international pressure on President Aristide. It provides that the military hold power through a period of transition.
As called for in the Governor's Island Accord, a new "government of consensus" is installed with business leader Robert Malval as Prime Minister.
October 11, 1993
U.S. troop carrier, the USS Harlan County, carrying 200 U.S. and Canadian soldiers, turns back from landing when about 100 attachés demonstrate at the port.
December 15, 1993
Prime Minister Malval resigns. Before his resignation, Malval proposed expanding the government to include well known Duvalierists and Tontons Macoutes.
December 26, 1993
Neo-Duvalierist group, FRAPH, sets more than 1,000 homes on fire in the urban slum Cite Soleil, killing at least 70 people.
Aristide supporters are massacred in Raboteau, a shantytown in Gonaives.
In May, additional sanctions were levied against the régime through a naval blockade supported by Argentine, Canadian, French, Dutch and U.S. warships. Tensions increased as human rights violations continued. The civilian mission was told by the de facto authorities to leave the country.
The UN Security Council passed Resolution 940 authorizing the Member States to form a 6,000 multinational force and "to use all necessary means" to facilitate the departure of the military régime.
On September 15, U.S. President Clinton declared that all diplomatic initiatives were exhausted and that the US with 20 other countries would form a multinational force. On September 19, these troops landed in Haiti after the coup leaders agreed to step down and leave the country.
On October 15, President Aristide returned to Haiti to serve out the rest of his term in office, facilitated by the US military and UN troops.
Constant disruptions of law and order result from Haiti's ineffective justice system and lack of sufficiently-trained police force.
June & July 1995
Local and legislative elections take place. Lavalas wins a landslide victory in the Senate and Lower House. Voter turnout is scarce, however, and election results are contested. Of the 27 participating parties, 23 refuse to recognize the results.
Haiti hosts the annual OAS General Assembly at Montrouis.
In November, Prime Minister Smarck Michel stepped down and Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh becomes President Aristide's fourth Prime Minister.
December 17, 1995
Presidential elections take place, but only 25% of the voters participate. The race is won by former Prime Minister René Préval, and for the first time in Haitian history, power is yielded from one elected leader to another.
February 7, 1996
Préval is inaugurated and Rosny Smarth later becomes Prime Minister.
October 18, 1996
Structural adjustment plan framework accepted.
Divisions within the Lavalas Political Organization are manifested by Aristide's formation of the Fanmi Lavalas (Lavalas Family).
Elections take place for 9 senators, two deputies, members of 564 local assemblies and 133 municipal representatives. Popularly considered fraudulent elections, voter turnout is extremely low, with less than a 10% presence at the polls.
Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigns.
1,200 UN troops withdraw. 300 police instructors and 400 U.S. troops remain.
The Organization du People en Lutte, formerly known as the Organization Politique Lavalas, no longer demands that the results of the April 1997 elections be repealed.
President Préval appoints Education Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis as Prime Minister. As a result of its expired term, President Préval refuses to recognize parliament.
A new government and provisional electoral council (CEP) are sworn in.
July 16, 1999
President Préval signs the Provisional Electoral Law, nullifying the 1997 elections and preparing for the fall elections.
March 27, 2000
After numerous election delays, the US calls the date of June 12 the "line in the sand" for the new Haitian parliament to be seated. According to Article 152 of the Haitian Constitution, the parliament is seated for its second session after a recess on the second Sunday in June. Sanctions against Haiti are threatened, including economic and diplomatic isolation and the denial of US visas to those seen obstructing the democratic process.
April 3, 2000
Radio journalist Jean Leopold Dominique is assassinated in the parking lot of his radio station, Radio Haiti International, on Delmas.
May 21, 2000
Local and legislative elections are held. International observers praised Haiti's elections as largely peaceful, free and fair. The CEP announced that more than 60% of the registered voters participated, the largest turn out since Dec 1990.
May 22, 2000
A group of political parties calling themselves the Group de Convergence claim electoral irregularities. Their principle claim is that one million ballots were stolen, unobserved by national and international observers. This was denied by the CEP.
June 1, 2000
The CEP releases election results stating that of the eight departments that had held the vote FL won 16 out of 17 seats in the senate in the first round. Of the 83 seats in the House of Deputies, FL won 28 outright.
June 2, 2000
The OAS observation mission notes that according to the provisions of the Electoral Law the methodology used to calculate the vote percentages for Senate candidates is not correct.
June 16, 2000
President of the CEP, Manus, seeks asylum in a foreign mission crosses the border to the Dominican Republic en route to the US.
August 22, 2000
Haiti's newly elected parliament convenes. Fanmi Lavalas spokesperson Yvon Neptune was appointed president of the Senate.
November 26, 2000
Elections are held for president and eight senate seats. The CEP reports 60% voter turn out with Aristide winning 92% of the votes cast.
February 7, 2001
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, 47, is inaugurated without disturbance, although 10 people were arrested due to a plot to use bomb to disturb the ceremonies. The Democratic Convergence inaugurates its own president, Gerard Gourgue.
April 6, 2001
The United States Executive Director at the Inter-American Development Bank uses his influence to stop disbursement of four pending humanitarian loans.
November 8, 2001
The U.S. Congressional Black Caucus takes up the issue of de facto economic sanctions, which have been in place in Haiti since 1997 (when efforts to privatize state-owned enterprises failed). They send a letter to President George Bush.
December 17, 2001
A coup attempt is unsuccessful in the early hours of the morning. Two police officers are killed. Thousands pour into the streets to defend democracy. Some protesters destroy offices and homes belonging to the Convergence.
The U.S. government secretly changes its policy towards Haitian refugees, requiring indefinite detention.
High-level OAS/CARICOM delegation investigates the political impasse in Haiti.
February 22, 2002
US Congressional Black Caucus unanimously agreed that the US should lift its veto on disbursing millions of dollars in aid to impoverished Haiti. "The failure to find a solution to the political impasse between Aristide's government and the opposition party coalition could lead to anarchy in the near future," warned Conyers in a written statement.
March 4, 2002
Senator Yvon Neptune is appointed Prime Minister. Neptune was a senator for the Western province of Haiti, and former spokesman for the Lavalas Family party. Senior Lavalas officials agreed Senator Neptune was a good choice.
July 2, 2002
The OAS releases its report on the coup attempt of December 17, 2001. Their findings do not include conclusive evidence that the attack was intended to be a coup. They call on the Haitian Government to investigate and prosecute all offenders in reprisal attacks.
August 2, 2002
During a prison break in Gonaives, popular leader Amiot Metayer is freed from jail. Along with him several criminals convicted for their participation in the Raboteau massacre are freed as well, most notably Jean Tatoune.
September 4, 2002
The OAS unanimously agrees to Resolution 822 calling for new elections, disarmament, increased security and normalization of economic relations between Haiti and the international financial institutions, among other things.
October 29, 2002
Over 200 Haitians arrive in Miami seeking asylum. Their dramatic arrival is covered by the U.S. press.
Government of Haiti cuts petrol subsidy to encourage the re-engagement of the IMF.
March 19, 2003
High-level OAS/CARICOM delegation arrives in Haiti.
April 23, 2003
Attorney General John Ashcroft issues a decision to detain all Haitians, even those granted bonds, on the basis of Homeland Security. He cited an increase in third country nations using Haiti as a staging point as the reason.
May 8, 2003
Haitian authorities reach an agreement with the IMF on its Staff-Monitored Program (SMP).
June 20, 2003
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry approves two projects to create Free Trade Zones, including on the Maribahoux Plain at the border with the Dominican Republic.
September 22, 2003
Longtime community leader from Raboteau, Gonaives, Amiot "Kiben" Metayer, is found murdered near Saint Marc.
The 47th Haitian legislature closes it session after proposing three amendments to the 1987 Constitution:
- To formally abolish the Haitian Army
- To remove life restrictions on dual citizenship
- To replace three-member mayoral cartels with a single mayor.
October 9, 2003
The Group of 184, led by factory owner Andre Apaid, Jr. joins the political opposition, the Democratic Convergence. The World Bank's private sector financing arm approves its first loan to Haiti since 1998, for the free trade zone project at the border of the Dominican Republic on the Maribahoux Plain.
Anti-government protesters clash with pro-government supporters several times. The Group of 184 and Democratic Convergence begin to advocate a violent overthrow of the Haitian government. Most violence occurs when opposition marchers deviate from the agreed-upon routes for their protests and intentionally confront pro-government protesters. Some 100 people are injured, and approximately 45 are killed. The Haitian National Police use tear gas and fire shots in the air but do not use unnecessary force to break up protests.
December 19, 2003
President Aristide revives a compromise proposal from the Haitian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He encourages the opposition to accept their proposal, which would create a nine-member council to oversee the next elections. The Democratic Convergence rejects President Aristide's invitation for compromise, and declares it will only participate if President Aristide steps down or is removed from power.
December 26, 2003
The Inter-American Development Bank begins disbursement on loans held up since 2000.
January 1, 2004
The Haitian people celebrate the 200th Anniversary of their victory over slavery. Opposition members, including the Group of 184 and the Democratic Convergence, protest the bicentennial.
Feb.2004 to May 2006
Aristide was kidnapped from Haiti and flew on a US chartered plane to the Central African Republic, and currently lives in South Africa. Boniface Alexandre, President (chief justice) of Haiti's Supreme Court, assumed office as interim President in accordance with Haiti's constitution. On recommendation from the Council of Elders, the President chose Gerard Latortue as interim Prime Minister. Haiti is currently under occupation of the United Nations, a situation contrary to the UN mandate.
May 14, 2006 to Present
René Garcia Préval was reelected and inaugurated as President of Haiti. Haiti is currently under occupation of the United Nations, a situation contrary to the UN mandate.