Quote of the Day

Barack Obama is changing the way we think about race. His inclusive message is so refreshing that, in addition to strong backing from blacks, he is drawing unprecedented nationwide support from white voters. It is so upsetting that this remarkable and historic feat is belittled as a ‘cult of personality’

-William Julius Wilson, professor of sociology and social policy at Harvard University, in The New York Times, February 13, 2008

Arab Haitians become more vocal, visible

Arab Haitians become more vocal, visible

Haitians of Arab descent are a small group in South Florida, but they are fast emerging as more vocal, more visible and even more political.

BY JACQUELINE CHARLES, Miami Herald

jcharles@herald.com

He grew up eating traditional dishes such as kibbe and tabbouleh. He listened to the lilt of the Lebanese dialect as his grandfather passionately discussed the issues of the day. He danced to the distinct sound of the music.
But even as Pierre Saliba enjoyed Middle Eastern culture, it was the cultural nuances of his real homeland, Haiti, that came to define much of his character.
”I am Haitian. My heritage is Lebanese,” said Saliba, 43, a Pembroke Pines accountant who was born in Port-au-Prince and raised in Les Cayes, an isolated seaport on Haiti’s southern coast. “All of my core values, what I believe in, my basic education, I got them in Haiti. All were shaped in Haiti.”
Several generations after their grandparents arrived in Haiti from Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries, Saliba and other Haitians of Arab descent are still fighting for inclusion in a Haitian community that sometimes considers them outsiders.
Now their battle has been transplanted to South Florida, where the Arab-Haitian community is concentrated in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Their numbers are small, but growing. Of the 214,893 Haitians living in South Florida, only 201 identified themselves as Haitians of Arab descent, according to a Herald analysis of U.S. Census data from the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota.
The Arab Haitians say they’re proud of both sides of their heritage.
”I always let people know I am Haitian,” said South Dade’s Delices De France bakery owner Patrick Baboun, whose mother emigrated from Palestine to Haiti in the 1940s after meeting his father, a Haitian of Palestinian descent. “They are surprised, but I want them to see that we are hardworking people.”
And it’s not just non-Haitians who are surprised to see a white or olive-skinned person speaking Creole.
”Yesterday, I was at a supermarket and talking Creole to a cousin of mine, and the people at the cash register were surprised,” said Ronald Rigaud, owner of Miami’s Citronelle restaurant whose mother is of Lebanese descent and whose dad’s French-German roots date to before the Haitian Revolution.
‘They asked, `You’re Haitian?’ I answered, ‘Yes I am. What do you think?’ I am beyond being offended by it.”
From Haitian bakeries to shipping companies to Coral Gables’ upscale Galerie d’Art Nader, which promotes high-end Haitian art, the community is making its presence known in South Florida.
It is becoming more vocal and visible, and even political, as Haitians of all backgrounds debate the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
”You reach a point where you can no longer stand on the sidelines,” said Dr. Ranley Desir, 46, a South Florida cardiologist whose father is a black Haitian and whose mother was born in northwest Haiti to Lebanese parents.
For Desir, the point arrived in December 2003, when university students in Haiti led one of the largest demonstrations against Aristide. More than 500 Haitians and Haitian Americans subsequently held an anti-Aristide rally in front of downtown Miami’s Torch of Friendship. Among them were Arab Haitians like Desir.
”I don’t usually go on the streets and protest, but you have to defend what is right,” said Desir, who shares a medical practice with his cousin and fellow cardiologist Dr. Ralph Nader. Nader’s siblings run the family-owned Coral Gables art gallery.
”Things were not acceptable in Haiti,” Desir said.
The events in Haiti and the high-profile involvement of one of their own — wealthy U.S.-born businessman Andre Apaid Jr. — in Aristide’s ouster have served as a rallying cry for the local Arab-Haitian community.
Apaid, who is of Haitian-Lebanese parentage, is the public face of a coalition of more than 300 public and private groups in Haiti, which in addition to demanding Aristide’s resignation, called for a new social contract between all Haitians.
The revolt against Aristide, who portrayed himself as a champion of the poor masses, resurrected old class and racial tensions in Haiti’s highly class-conscious society, where until recently, Arabs were not embraced by Haitian elites.
Aristide became public enemy No. 1 to some after publicly berating the elite — including Arabs, often prosperous business people in Haiti — for not doing their part to improve the lives of the poor.
”How many generations does it take for one to be Haitian?” said Mario Delatour, an independent Haitian filmmaker who has spent the past year filming a documentary on the Arab-Haitian community, tracing its migration from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine in the 1800s and during World Wars I and II to the Port-au-Prince waterfront.
“They still point the finger to them because of their flesh tones. We are talking fourth-generation now — 1890 to 2005. Can you call them Arabs? No. They are of Arab extraction, but they are Haitian.”
Delatour said the first documented group of Arabs arrived in Haiti in 1890. Christian minorities, they were leaving the Ottoman Empire.
”They came dirt-poor, and now a hundred years later they are a force to be reckoned with,” Delatour said.
Once in Haiti, they were shunned by the elite but embraced by the poor masses, to whom they sold textiles. They also mastered the Creole language, sent their children to Roman Catholic schools and taught them the Haitian way of life.
When various Haitian presidents attempted to expel them from the country by enacting anti-Arab laws, some left but soon returned.
It wasn’t until Haiti’s president-for-life, Francois ”Papa Doc” Duvalier, seized power in 1956 that Haitians of Arab decent began to see progress. Duvalier made them political allies and named Carlo Boulos as the first Haitian of Arab descent to be health minister, Delatour said.
Today, Boulos’ son Dr. Reginald Boulos is a physician who serves as president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Port-au-Prince.
Carl Fombrun, a South Florida Haitian radio commentator who is not an Arab, said the Arab Haitians have been successful because they have focused on business enterprises. Fombrun, a light-skinned Haitian from a prominent family, said members of his class have tended to obtain professional degrees while the Arab Haitians provide services, mostly in the textile business. Haitians, he said, need to overcome their biases and suspicions of Arabs. Still, some Haitians remain skeptical about the group.
”I am very cautious of this growing involvement,” said Gepsie Metellus, a local Haitian community activist. “Frankly, they don’t have a good track record of affirming their Haitian-ness, of actually contributing to the social, political and cultural growth of the island they claim to be their homeland.”
Metellus said that while she agreed with many Arab Haitians in denouncing Aristide’s ”dictatorial tendencies,” “I clearly know they are not my allies.”
Saliba, the forensic accountant who helps build Habitat for Humanity homes in Little Haiti and lobbies Gov. Jeb Bush on Haitian issues, doesn’t disagree that there are those among his group who should do better at sharing the wealth.
”I cannot say 100 percent she is right and 100 percent she is wrong . . . this is a fight we cannot win,” he said. “It’s very hard for good people to help this community. They don’t make it easy for you even if you are not Haitian. When they see you really want to help and the community is responding to you, they will pull the race card.”
Haitians, he said, have to learn to live with each other.
”We are proud to be Haitian,” he said. “Right now, in this community, whether they like ir or not there is an emerging [Arab-Haitian] community, people moving down from New York, Boston, to South Dade. You will see more of us.”
Herald database editor Tim Henderson contributed to this report.
AN ARAB-HAITIAN HISTORY

Most of Haiti’s Arab community can trace their roots to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, with a few families from Jordan and Algeria. Key dates:
• 1890: A group of 30 Arab Christians arrive from greater Syria (which then included Lebanon) in Port-au-Prince’s harbor, where Italians and Germans ran many of the businesses.
• 1890-1903: The migration continues. Shunned by the elite, Arabs head to the countryside, where they peddle textiles on the streets and open businesses. They are said to have introduced the concept of ”credit” in Haiti.
• 1912: Haitian President Michel Cincinnatus Leconte orders them to leave Haiti. He later dies in an unexplained explosion in the national palace. Arabs, fearing for their lives after some attempted to blame them, flee to Cuba and South America. Many later return; some change their last names.
• 1914-1918: Turkey aligns itself with Germany during World War I and abolishes Lebanon’s autonomy, causing another migration toward Haiti and elsewhere.
• 1930s: Arabs are protected during the U.S. occupation of Haiti, but more anti-Arab laws are enacted following the U.S. forces’ departure.
• 1940s: A wave of Palestinians arrive during the Arab-Israeli war.
• 1950s to present: Smaller groups of Arabs continue to migrate to Haiti. Many speak a hybrid language of Creole and Arabic. Some are owners of the country’s larger supermarkets.
SOURCE: Filmmaker Mario Delatour and interviews with local Arab Haitians. ——

Miamia Herald

Key Dates in Haiti’s History


1492

Christopher Columbus lands and claims the island of Hispaniola for Spain. The Spanish build the New World’s first settlement at La Navidad on Haiti’s north coast.

1697

Spanish control over the colony ends with the Treaty of Ryswick, which divided the island into French-controlled St. Domingue and Spanish Santo Domingo.

For over 100 years the colony of St. Domingue (known as the Pearl of the Antilles) was France’s most important overseas territory, which supplied it with sugar, rum, coffee and cotton. At the height of slavery, near the end of the 18th century, some 500,000 people, mainly of western African origin, were enslaved by the French.

1791-1803

A slave rebellion is launched by the Jamaican-born Boukman leading to a protracted 13-year war of liberation against St. Domingue’s colonists and later, Napoleon’s army which was also assisted by Spanish and British forces. The slave armies were commanded by General Toussaint Louverture who was eventually betrayed by the French and subsequently exiled to France where he died.

1803

The Haitian blue and red flag is devised at Arcahie, by taking the French tricolor, turning it in its side and removing the white band. The Battle of Vertières in November marks the ultimate victory of the former slaves over the French.

1804

The hemispere’s second Republic is declared on January 1, 1804 by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Haiti, or Ayiti in Creole, is the name given to the land by the former Taino-Arawak peoples, meaning “mountainous country.”

1806

Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines is assassinated.

1807-20

Civil war racks the country, which divides into the northern kingdom of Henri Christophe and the southern republic governed by Alexandre Pétion. Faced with a rebellion by his own army, Christophe commits suicide, paving the way for Jean-Pierre Boyer to reunify the country and become President of the entire republic in 1820.

1821

President Boyer invades Santo Domingo following its declaration of independence from Spain. The entire island is now controlled by Haiti until 1844.

1838

France recognizes Haitian independence in exchange for a financial indemnity of 150 million francs. Most nations including the United States shunned Haiti for almost forty years, fearful that its example could stir unrest there and in other slaveholding countries. Over the next few decades Haiti is forced to take out loans of 70 million francs to repay the indemnity and gain international recognition.

1862

The United States finally grants Haiti diplomatic recognition sending noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass as its Consular Minister.

1915

President Woodrow Wilson orders the U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti and establish control over customs-houses and port authorities. The Haitian National Guard is created by the occupying Americans. The Marines force peasants into corvée labor building roads. Peasant resistance to the occupiers grows under the leadership of Charlemagne Peralt, who is betrayed and assassinated by Marines in 1919.

1934

The U.S. withdraws from Haiti leaving the Haitian Armed Forces in place throughout the country.

1937

Thousands of Haitians living near the border of the Dominican Republic are massacred by Dominican soldiers under the orders of President General Trujillo.

1957

After several attempts to move forward democratically ultimately fail, military-controlled elections lead to victory for Dr. François Duvalier, who in 1964 declares himself President-for-Life and forms the infamous paramilitary Tonton Makout. The corrupt Duvalier dictatorship marks one of the saddest chapters in Haitian history with tens of thousands killed or exiled.

1971

“Papa-Doc” Duvalier dies in office after naming his 19 year-old son Jean-Claude as his successor.

1972

The first Haitian “boat people” fleeing the country land in Florida.

1976

Widespread protests against repression of the nation’s press take place.

1970s-1980s

“Baby-Doc” Duvalier exploits international assistance and seeks 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.

1980

Hundreds of human rights workers, journalists and lawyers are arrested and exiled from the country.

1981

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.

1983

Pope John Paul II visits Haiti and declares publicly that, “Things must change here.”

1984

Over 200 peasants are massacred at Jean-Rabeau after demonstrating for access to land. The Haitian Bishops Conference launches a nation-wide (but short-lived) literacy program. Anti-government riots take place in all major towns.

1985

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.

1986

Widespread protests against “Baby Doc” lead the U.S. to arrange for Duvalier and his family to be exiled to France. Army leader General Henri Namphy heads a new National Governing Council.

1987

A new Constitution is overwhelmingly approved by the population in March. General elections in November are aborted hours after they begin with dozens of people shot by soldiers and the Tonton Makout in the capital and scores more around the country.

1988

Military controlled elections – widely abstained from – result in the installation of Leslie Manigat as President in January. Manigat is ousted by General Namphy four months later and in November General Prosper Avril unseats Namphy.

1989

President Avril, on a trade mission to Taiwan, returns empty-handed after grassroots-based democratic sectors inform Taiwanese authorities that the Haitian nation will not be responsible for any contracts agreed to by Avril. Avril orders massive repression against political parties, unions, students and democratic organizations.

1990

Avril declares a state of siege in January. Rising protests and urging from the American Ambassador convince Avril to resign. A Council of State forms out of negotiations 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 take place on December 16, 1990. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a parish priest, well known throughout the country for his support of the poor, is elected President with 67.5% of the popular vote. The “U.S. favorite” Marc Bazin finishes a distant second with 14.2%

1991

Duvalierist holdover and Tonton Makout 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 is inaugurated on February 7th, five years after Duvalier’s fall from power. A Government is formed by Prime Minister René Préval promising to uproot the corruption of the past. Over $500 million is promised in aid by the international community.

In September President Aristide addresses the UN General Assembly. Three days after his return military personnel with financial backing from neo-Duvalierist sectors and their international allies unleash a coup d’état, ousting President Aristide. Over 1,000 people are killed in the first days of the coup.

The OAS calls for a hemisphere-wide embargo against the coup régime in support of the deposed constitutional authorities.

1992

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 is 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 fails as goods continue to be smuggled through neighboring Dominican Republic. Haiti’s legitimate authorities ask the United Nations to support a larger embargo in order to press the coup leaders to step down. The UN pledges to support efforts by the OAS to find a solution to the political crisis.

1993

President Aristide asks the Secretaries-General of the OAS and the UN for the deployment by the United Nations and OAS of an international civilian mission to monitor respect for human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence.

In June Haiti requests an oil and arms embargo from the UN Security Council in order to pressure the coup régime to give up power.

In July, President Aristide and General Raoul Cédras sign the Governors Island Accord, which inter alia called for the early retirement of Gen. Cédras, the formation and training of a new civilian police force, and the return of the President on October 30, 1993. Representatives of political parties and Parliament sign the New York Pact pledging support for President Aristide’s return and the rebuilding of the nation.

A contingent of U.S. and Canadian trainers aboard the U.S.S. Harlan County arrives in Haitian waters in October and is recalled because of right-wing demonstrations, setting back the Governors Island agreement. General Cédras refuses to step down as promised.

President Aristide’s Justice Minister Guy Malary, responsible for the formation of a civilian police force is shot dead in Port-au-Prince weeks after local businessman and Aristide supporter Antoine Izmery is executed outside of a local church.

The UN calls for “strict implementation” of the embargo against the de facto authorities. The Civilian Mission’s human rights observers are allowed to return in small numbers.

1994

In May additional sanctions were levied against the régime through a naval blockade supported by Argentine, Canadian, French, Dutch and U.S. warships.

Tensions increase as human rights violations continue. The Civilian Mission is told by the de facto authorities to leave the country.

The UN Security Council passes 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 15th, U.S. President Clinton declares that all diplomatic initiatives were exhausted and that the US with 20 other countries would form a multinational force. On September 19th these troops land in Haiti after the coup leaders agree to step down and leave the country.

On October 15th, President Aristide and his Government-in-exile return to Haiti.

1995

In June Haiti hosts the annual OAS General Assembly at Montrouis.

Legislative elections take place that month and in December the presidential contest is won by former Prime Minister René Préval. (President Aristide is precluded by the Constitution from succeeding himself).

In November Prime Minister Smarck Michel steps down and Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh becomes President Aristide’s fourth Prime Minister.

1996

President Préval is inaugurated in February. A Government is formed under Prime Minister Rosny Smarth. Agricultural production, administrative reform, and economic modernization are announced as the Goverment’s priorities.

source ,Ambassade d ‘Haïti
Washington D.C.

Haitian History: What U.S. textbooks don’t tell

Haitian History: What U.S. textbooks don’t tell
By Greg Dunkel, Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti, Vol.21 no.27, 17–23 September 2003
Publisher’s note: This document combines the two parts of the original publication. The second part appeared in Haiti Progres, Vol.21 no.26, 24 September 2003.

Looking at how Haiti’s history is presented in high-school textbooks in the United States gives an insight into why many North Americans know so little about Haiti and how this limited knowledge has been distorted, muffled, and hidden behind a veil of silence.

The successful revolution in Haiti against the French slave owners is a singular event in world history. It is the only time that slaves managed to rise up, smash their oppressors, and set up a new state and social order that reflected some of their hopes and aspirations.

In 1790, Saint Domingue was a French colony where 10,000 people made fabulous profits from owning almost all the land and from brutally oppressing 500,000 slaves, entirely African or of African descent, with some 40,000 people in intermediate positions. Fifteen years later, in 1805, the slave-owning colony was gone, replaced by the Republic of Haiti, whose citizens were mostly subsistence farmers who had their own weapons.

It was the first successful national liberation struggle in modern times. When Haiti declared its independence in 1804, it was the only state in the world to have a leader of African descent. In fact, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the governor-in-general in 1804, was an ex-slave who had survived a cruel master.

One widely used U.S. high school textbook, World History: Perspective on the Past, published by Houghton Mifflin Co., presents this struggle in just a few sentences: Toussaint drove the French forces from the island. Then, in 1802, he attended a peace meeting where he was treacherously taken prisoner. He was then sent to France, where he died in prison. However, the French could not retake the island. (p 536) About 30 pages later, when the subject of the Louisiana Purchase comes up, a little more is said about Haiti: Toussaint’s fighters and yellow fever all but wiped out a French army of 10,000 soldiers. Discouraged, Napoleon gave up the idea of an American empire and decided to sell the Louisiana Territory. (p 562). (Actually, the 10,000 soldier figure is an error according to C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins, p 355).

Another common high school textbook World History: Connections to Today, published by Prentis-Hall, devotes almost a page to Haiti, but sums up the struggle against the French attempt to re-enslave Haiti in 1802 in just a few words: In 1804, Haitian leaders declared independence. With yellow fever destroying his army, Napoleon abandoned Haiti.

On Feb. 3, 1802, Gen. Victor-Emmanuel Leclerc, Napoleon’s brother-in-law, arrived at Cap Français (currently Cap Haïtien) with five thousand men and demanded entrance. Toussaint’s commander, Henri Christophe, was out-numbered and out-gunned. Rather than surrender, Christophe burned down the city (starting with his own house), destroyed the gunpowder plant, and retreated into the mountains. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, under orders from Toussaint Louverture, seized the French fort called Crête-à-Pierrot in the center of the country with 1,500 troops, held off the 12,000 French troops that besieged it through two attacks, and then cut his way through the French forces to escape.

By the end of April, Louverture had been seized and sent to France, and all his lieutenants had either been deported or incorporated into the French army. But the popular resistance continued and intensified. The French continued losing large numbers of soldiers to yellow fever as well as small-scale but persistent attacks. Cultivators, fearing the reintroduction of slavery, continued to flee to the mountains as maroons and to form small armed bands.

By the end of July 1802, when news spread that the French had re-instituted slavery on Guadeloupe, reopened the slave trade, and forbade any person of color from claiming the title of citizen, resistance turned to insurrection.

French reprisals were terrible but only seemed to strengthen the conviction of the masses that they would rather die fighting than be re-enslaved. And they insisted on dying with dignity, no matter how cruel the French were. In one instance, when three captured Haitian soldiers were being burned to death, one started crying. Another said Watch me. I will show you how to die. He turned around to face the pole, slid down, and burned to death without a whimper. A French general watching the execution wrote to Leclerc: These are the men we have to fight!

In another case, a mother consoled her weeping daughters as they were marched to their execution: Rejoice that your wombs will not have to bear slave children. (Carolyn F. Frick, The Making of Haiti, p 221)

In September, shortly before he died of yellow fever, Leclerc wrote to Napoleon that the only way France could win was to destroy all the blacks in the mountains — men, women, and children over 12—and half the blacks in the plains. We must not leave a single colored person who has worn an épaulette. (Officers wore épaulettes.) This means that the commander of the French expedition saw no way to win other than genocide.

By the end of October 1802, the insurrection was so strong that Toussaint’s officers who had disingenuously joined the French, deserted and began a counter-attack. The struggle took a more organized military character, while the popular insurrection intensified.

By mid 1803, the French were being mopped up in the south. Jérémie was evacuated in August, and Cayes fell on October 17. Then Dessalines decided to move on the French in Cap Français.

Since he didn’t have enough artillery or the logistics to support a long siege, Dessalines decided to take le Cap by storm. He assigned a half-brigade, commanded by Capois La Mort, to storm the walls covered by the mutually supported positions, Butte de la Charrier and Vertières. Meanwhile, two other brigades maneuvered to seize batteries protecting the city from an attack from the sea. Although grape-shot cut swaths through the brigade led by Capois, the soldiers kept pressing forward, clambering over their dead and shouting to each other To the attack, soldiers. On Nov. 18, their combined assault took Charrier, which opened the city to Haitian artillery. The French general agreed to leave immediately and was captured 10 hours later by the British. On Nov. 19, 1803, the French army left Haiti for good.

Those are the reasons why the French could not retake the island and why Napoleon abandoned Haiti—the French were decisively defeated. The masses refused to return to slavery and their leaders organized a people’s army that crushed the French.

World History: Perspective on the Past (Houghton Mifflin Co.) and World History: Connections to Today (Prentis Hall) don’t treat Haiti’s history from 1804 to 1860. That was before U.S. capitalism had matured enough to aggressively expand into the Caribbean, as it did a few decades later.

In 1825, France forced Haiti to begin paying reparations amounting to 90 million gold francs (worth about $3.3 billion in today’s currency) for freeing the slaves. Those are the reparations that Haiti is demanding France restitute today.

Although the U.S. did not recognize Haiti until 1862, Haiti still did surprisingly substantial trade with both France and the U.S.

With the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1865, the Caribbean soon became a cockpit of imperialist interventions and maneuvering. The two high school textbooks under examination mention Haiti from time to time as part of a laundry list of countries where the U.S. intervened.

But the U.S. was not the only imperialist power splashing around the Caribbean. In the years leading up to the first U.S. military occupation of Haiti in 1915, warships of Spain, France, Germany, and the U.S. invaded Haitian territorial waters more than 20 times. Even Sweden and Norway got into the act.

Germany, an imperialist latecomer, aggressively pursued its interests in Haiti because it was restricted in other colonized parts of the world. Columnist Fleurimond Kerns, in a recent article in Haïti Progrès (Vol. 21, No. 10, 5/21/2003), described one typical incident. Let us recall the case of two German businessmen established in Haiti in Miragône and Cap-Haïtien, he wrote. After going bankrupt during the period of instability under the governments of Fabre Geffrard [1859-1867] and Sylvain Salnave [1867-1869], these two Germans asked Berlin to demand immediate payment from the government of Nissage Saget [1870-1874] of an indemnity of US $15,000. The Haitian government had to give in faced with the inequality of forces posed by two German warships, the Vineta and the Gazella, under the command of Captain Batsch. When the Germans left, they returned Haiti’s captured warships in a sorry state. For example, the national bicolor was smeared with excrement. The date was June 11, 1872.

While historians and some textbooks do list imperialist interventions in Haiti and the larger Caribbean, finding descriptions of resistance is much harder. In her 294-page book Haiti and the United States, Brenda Gayle Plummer has a paragraph on what happened in Port-au-Prince on July 6, 1861. The Spanish navy was threatening to bombard the city if Haiti did not offer a 21-gun salute and pay a big indemnity. The people of Port-au-Prince were so upset when their government capitulated that they came out into the streets. The government had to declare martial law to control the situation (p. 41).

The case of Haitian Admiral Hamilton Killick is another outstanding example of Haitian resistance. At the start of the last century, both the U.S. and Germany deployed Caribbean naval squadrons. The United States was planning to build the Panama Canal to tie its Pacific coast to the Eastern seaboard and further penetrate into Latin America. Germany wanted to project its military power to reinforce its commercial and financial push into Haiti.

In 1902, Germany was meddling in a Haitian power struggle, backing one leader while Admiral Killick backed another. Kerns describes what happened on Sep. 6 of that year. There was a major political struggle going on at the time between Nord Alexis and Anténor Firmin over taking power in Port-au-Prince, after the precipitous departure of President Tirésis Simon Sam [1896-1902], Kerns wrote. Admiral Killick, who commanded the patrol ship La Crête-à-Pierrot, supported Firmin and consequently had confiscated a German ship transporting arms and munitions to the provisional Haitian government of Alexis… [which] ordered another German warship, the Panther, to seize the Crête-à-Pierrot. But it didn’t realize the determination and courage of Admiral Killick. At Gonaïves, the Germans had the surprise of their life. When the German ship appeared off the roadstead of the city, Admiral Killick, who was then ashore, hurried on board and ordered his whole crew to abandon the ship. The Germans did not understand this maneuver. Once the [Haitian] sailors were out of danger, Admiral Killick together with Dr. Coles, who also did not want to leave the vessel, wrapped himself in the Haitian flag, like Captain Laporte in 1803, and blew the Crête-à-Pierrot up by firing at the munitions. The German sailors did not even dream of an act so heroic.

Through his self-detonation, Killick not only denied the Germans possession of a Haitian ship and the German munitions it had seized, he also came close to blowing up the Panther, according to one German crewman who wrote a postcard home (Postal History: Germany — Haiti — United States at http://home.earthlink.net/~rlcw).

German influence in Haiti waned after the U.S. Marines invaded Port-au-Prince on Jul. 28, 1915 and began their 19-year occupation of Haiti. At that time, the U.S. had not officially entered World War One, but it wanted to stop any attempt by Germany to set up a base in Haiti. It also wanted to protect the Panama Canal, which had opened for business the year before. The U.S. occupation also ended the close financial and commercial ties between Haiti and France, though not the cultural ones. (France was a U.S. ally at the time, but also an imperialist competitor in the Caribbean.)

The U.S. occupation met with four years of fierce armed resistance from guerillas known as cacos, who were led by Charlemagne Péralte and, later, Benoît Batraville. The occupation of Haiti caused great controversy in the U.S., and deep resentment in Haiti.

But the only mention that Perspective and Connections make of the U.S. Occupation is to say how President Franklin D. Roosevelt was true to his word and to his Good Neighbor Policy when he withdrew the U.S. Marines in 1934.

U.S. textbooks don’t mention that Roosevelt’s needed to wind down Washington’s expensive military interventions since the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression. They also don’t mention that Haiti had an anti-occupation nationwide strike and a series of demonstrations in 1929, one of which the Marines put down with deadly force (Nicols, From Dessalines to Duvalier, p 151). Over the next five years, the U.S. pull-out was hastened by growing agitation, outcry and popular bitterness.

These two textbooks, Perspective and Connections, ignore and obscure the important role that the Haitian people played in Haiti’s history, and the important role Haiti played in the hemisphere’s history. They camouflage the imperialist interests behind U.S. and European military interventions by giving only brief and simplistic descriptions of major events. Even though the word imperialism does appear in them, the textbooks give U.S. students no real understanding of the racism, violence, and greed that the U.S. used to repress and exploit the Haitian people for almost two decades.

All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED. Please credit Haiti Progres.

Book recommendation

On American Intellectual History

Martin Jay, Songs of Experience: Modern American and European Variations on a Universal Theme
Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese, The Mind of the Master Class
Catherine Tumber, American Feminism and the Birth of New Age Spirituality: Searching for the Higher Self 1875-1915
George Cotkin, Existential America
David Hollinger and Charles Capper, eds., The American Intellectual Tradition, 4th edition, two volumes. (Vol. I 1630-1865; Vol. II 1865-2000)
Joyce Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination
Isaiah Berlin, Liberty
Kathleen Donohue, Freedom from Want: American Liberalism and the Idea of the Consumer
Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America
Wilfred McClay, The Masterless
George Packer, Blood of the Liberals
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Vital Center
Lionel Trilling, The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent

Vernon Louis Parrington (1871–1929)


For many contemporary historians, Vernon Louis Parrington, was the greatest literary historian in America. A two-time graduate from Harvard University, 1893 and in 1897 respectively. Upon graduating from Harvard, he was hired as an instructor of English and Modern Languages at the University of Oklahoma. Parrington is known for his Pultitzer winning magisterial work for history (1928), Main Currents in American Thought. In the three volume work, Parrington brought to the attention of the American people important political figures from Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, and public concerns of the American political life; that is, ” Of American letters from colonial times, postulating a sharp divide between the elitist Hamiltonian current and its populist Jeffersonian opponents, and making clear Parrington’s own identification with the latter.” For example, he forcefully defended the doctrine of state sovereignty and successfully (?)disassociated the movement from the the cause of slavery in America. For, he contended that both movements (the state sovereignty and slavery in America) had not supported and advanced American democracy, instead proven “disastrous to American democracy.” (source)

“Ideas are not godlings that spring perfect-winged from the head of Jove; they are not flowers that bloom in a walled garden; they are weapons hammered out on the anvil of human needs.”
— Vernon Louis Parrington

For further reading-
Richard Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians (1968)
Robert Allen Skotheim, American Intellectual Histories and Historians (1966)
Alfred Kazin, On Native Ground (1942)
Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination (1950)

Vernon Louis Parrington’s Main Currents in American Thought

Quote of the Day

“Human beings participate in history both as actors and narrators.” – Michel-Rolph Trouillot