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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

H is for Haiti

A couple weeks ago, during my church's Black History Month celebration, we had a speaker talk about Haiti. He was a scholar on the topic and spoke for nearly 40 minutes, so I can't bring you all that he shared. But I thought these points were particularly interesting.

Haitians fought in the American Revolutionary War on the side of the colonies. This became a source of great pride among the Haitian people. And the success of the the American example, and that of France c. 1789, was pivotal in the Haitians' successful revolution (1791-1804).

Yet the United States was cool to the revolt on the island of Hispanola. "Could it be that...the specter of a revolution of slaves against white masters a revolution led by a former slave, Toussaint Louverture, who claimed for the former slaves a universal human right to freedom and citizenship made Americans cool to revolution?

"Thomas Jefferson, who readily accepted violence as the price of freedom in France, was not so relaxed about the black revolutionaries in Saint-Domingue as Haiti was called until its formal independence in 1804.

"Timothy Pickering, the irascible Federalist who served in the cabinets of both George Washington and John Adams...demanded of Jefferson, could he praise the French Revolution and refuse support for the rebels on Saint-Domingue because they were 'guilty' of having a 'skin not colored like our own'?"

And fear of slave uprisings in the United States being inspired by the Haitian revolution was not entirely unfounded.

But it was the Haitian revolution which made Jefferson's purchase of the Louisiana purchase in 1803 possible. The United States, who were only looking for access to the port of New Orleans got to nearly double its land. The French, who'd only reacquired the territory from the Spanish a few years earlier, got needed money and got to tweak Spain at the same time.

So why has Haiti been so poor for so long. Certainly a pair of reasons happened early on: boycott and reparations.

In 1806, fearful that the Haitian Revolution might inspire enslaved Africans in other parts of the Western hemisphere to rebel, the U.S. Congress banned trade with Haiti, joining French, Spanish and Portuguese boycotts. Global shipping originating in or by Haiti was banned from trading with or entering American and European ports of trade. This coordinated embargo effectively crippled Haiti’s export-driven economy and its development as a once prosperous Caribbean port... The embargo was accompanied by a threat of re-colonization and re-enslavement by the American-European alliance if Haiti failed to compensate France for losses incurred when French plantation owners, as a result of the Haitian Revolution, lost Haiti’s lucrative sugar, coffee and tobacco fortunes supported by slave labor.... Haiti spent the next 111 years, until 1922, paying 70% of its national revenues in reparations to France – a ransom enforced by the American-European trade alliance as the price for Haiti’s independence.

Many of these same points are discussed in this recent Daily Kos story.

I'm inclined to believe that rebuilding Haiti is not a moral imperative, it is economic justice that, if done correctly, could pay dividends for all concerned.


ABC Wednesday
ROG

35 comments:

LisaF said...

Must say, I didn't know much about Haiti until the earthquake. I knew it was one of the poorest countries in the world. Now I know why. Thanks again for the history lesson.

Amy said...

Roger, I so agree with you re "economic justice." A great history lesson - thank you!

Sylvia K said...

A great history lesson indeed! Learned some things I didn't know about Haiti! Thanks for a terrific H post, Roger!! Have a wonderful day!

Sylvia

Rinkly Rimes said...

The idea of a country being crippled by debt for 111 years is appalling!

photowannabe said...

Fascinating learning about this part of history. I like the choice of words about economic justice. Great post.

Life with Kaishon said...

That statue is AMAZING. Wow. What a great image. Love it. And LOVE how the whole world is coming together to help Haiti.

anthonynorth said...

Haiti has suffered for so long. Great post.

Christine H. said...

Wonderful post. Yes, it is economic justice to help Haiti.

Stan Ski said...

Justice for sure, but at such a cost.

Mara said...

Wow, I never knew any of that. Thank you for the great history, even if it isn't that great for Haïti! And yes, it would be just to help them without wanting repayment this time around!

Joy said...

Lets hope the optimistic view is the one that happens in reconstruction. Small countries and large economic interests in the region don't always make for self determination.

Tumblewords: said...

Thanks for adding information to world history. I've heard this mentioned recently and surely think it would be a fine thing to do.

Paula Scott said...

Fascinating...all this connecting of the dots. And, a very timely choice I might add.
I thank you once again for the enlightenment!

Beverley Baird said...

What a great history lesson. I have learned a lot about Haiti! Thank you for providing this.

Jama said...

Thanks for the history lesson, Roger. Now we know the reason why they stay poor till now.

LeAnn * ~ See Great Things said...

Fascinating, I was not aware of all of this. That boycott sickens me. I had no idea. Thanks for taking the time to share all of this.~

Troy said...

How horrific that such haughty hatred held Haiti hostage for over a Hundred years.

How could Humanity hesitate to help them now?

Excellent, and humbling, History lesson.

As always, I enjoyed my visit to your blog. Thanks for posting it.

Troy

Spiderdama said...

Great and interesting post for H!

Ps: yes, my flames is from a oil installasjon.

Have a nice day:-)

Grace and Bradley said...

This is a piece of sad history of Haiti that I do not know about. Now I know better. Thanks you!

jay said...

I knew some of that, but not that Haiti was forced to pay so much in 'reparation' to France. Iniquitous!

I do agree that Haiti should have all the help it needs, right now, to get itself on its feet again. I also hear that the island has been fairly well denuded of trees because of the poverty there, so maybe a good tree planting program could be implemented?

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I still find it hard to believe that Haiti had to continue to pay France so much for so long.

Monika said...

a great history lesson i didnt know so much abt Haiti

Carolyn Ford said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to write about this situation. I also didn't know much about Haiti, and certainly the reasons about their poverty. Interesting.

Kate said...

If you haven't already, I think that you would enjoy reading "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder. Excellent post for today.

Willa @ PixelMinded said...

Thank you for this post. What a very informative entry.

Manang Kim said...

I had a goosebumps reading your post. For me it is a sad history. Thanks for sharing this one.

H for Hairdo

Nydia said...

Beautiful, but sad history! Loved the statue, so touching!

Kisses from Nydia.

dana said...

Roger, your post echoes information seen in the documentary Haiti: The Sleeping Giant. The film, shown recently at LA's Pan African Film Fest, recounts Haiti's history while showing footage pre and post the earthquake. The film really connected the dots for me as your post is doing today. Excellent post!

dragonfly said...

Thanks for sharing the info, the bronze statue is fabulous. My friend is from Haiti and is working closely with the Haitian Minister with regard the orphaned children, let us hope that more of them will be reunited with families in the coming weeks.

http://www.gardenersreach.com/post/H-is-for-Heron.aspx

Reader Wil said...

You said:"I'm inclined to believe that rebuilding Haiti is not a moral imperative, it is economic justice that, if done correctly, could pay dividends for all concerned".
I agree with you. I didn't know that this poverty of Haity was due to the the boycott against Haity taken more than 200 years ago.

Gattina said...

The sculpture is beautiful, for the text I have to come back, today I have no time to read it properly !

Ann said...

Have you fired a rifle? My dad was a "forced" vigilantee soldier in the 70s when the Malaysian Government were fighting the communists. All heads of Depts had to volunteer. Mum LOl when he had very sore sternum/chest when the after he fired, the rifle came back at him, and hurt him.

dragonfly said...

Thanks for sharing the info, the bronze statue is fabulous. My friend is from Haiti and is working closely with the Haitian Minister with regard the orphaned children, let us hope that more of them will be reunited with families in the coming weeks.

http://www.gardenersreach.com/post/H-is-for-Heron.aspx

dragonfly said...

Thanks for sharing the info, the bronze statue is fabulous. My friend is from Haiti and is working closely with the Haitian Minister with regard the orphaned children, let us hope that more of them will be reunited with families in the coming weeks.

http://www.gardenersreach.com/post/H-is-for-Heron.aspx

dragonfly said...

Thanks for sharing the info, the bronze statue is fabulous. My friend is from Haiti and is working closely with the Haitian Minister with regard the orphaned children, let us hope that more of them will be reunited with families in the coming weeks.

http://www.gardenersreach.com/post/H-is-for-Heron.aspx