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Haitian American Dream : Themes

Economic Relations and Increasing Dependence

  • International Aid and Hegemony (1957)
    In the 20th century, providing international aid was one of the strategies the U.S. used to become a hegemonic power. In Haiti, this policy resulted in a shift towards dependence.
  • US Alliance for Haiti (1961)
    Even though Duvalier’s abuse of human rights presented a challenge to JFK’s government, the U.S. continued to provide aid to Haiti as a deterrent against communism. For example, Haiti received monetary grants and loans. In turn, the U.S. established a naval base there.
  • Increasing Foreign Dependence (1963)
    Duvalier actively promoted foreign investment in Haiti through union suppression and the modernization of Port-au-Prince. Drought and hurricanes such as Flora (1963) and Cleo (1964) furthered dependence on U.S. aid.
  • Economic Progress to Legitimize Dictatorship (1970s)
    Jean Claude Duvalier legitimized his regime on economic progress. Despite his boasts of economic growth, exemplified in the 1971 and 1979 speeches linked below, Haiti’s economic data showed no economic progress.
  • African Swine Flu: US Pigs Change Haiti’s Economy (1978)
    In December 1978, African Swine Flu (ASF) made its way into Haiti. To prevent the spread, the U.S. and Canada established the international committee Programme pour l’Eradication de la Peste Porcine Africaine et pour le Développement de l’Elevage Porcin (PEPPADEP). Its purpose was to eradicate ASF by killing Haitian black pigs and replacing them with U.S. pigs. These actions had a devastating impact on Haitian peasants’ livelihood and Haiti’s economy.

Waves of Haitian Immigration to the United States & the Haitian Refugee Crisis

Cultural Exchange and Social Impact

  • Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange (1950s)
    Through diplomacy and foreign aid, Haiti and the U.S. had a strong relationship. Thousands of Americans visited Haiti as artists, missionaries, foreign diplomats, and researchers. At the same time, the Haitian government established an unstructured program of cultural exchange--mostly through art and education
  • Haitian Art (1951)
    The Haitian renaissance had a significant cultural impact both in Haiti and abroad.
  • Haiti Week Celebrations (1951)
    Sponsored by the Republic of Haiti as part of the celebrations for Haiti Week, a festival of music and dance was organized at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City.
  • US International Educational Programs (1954)
    Two Haitian students were awarded funding to study within the United States as part of the Fulbright Program, an international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. with aims of improving international relations and diplomacy.
  • Haitian and American Labor Leaders Meet (1954)
    Haitian labor leaders toured various U.S. cities in an effort to use their observations and exchanges to help restructure Haitian labor unions.
  • Shift Towards Greater Tourism in the Caribbean (1956)
  • Academic Tour for Haitian Principals (1960)
    The cultural exchange between Haiti and the U.S. included a ten-month tour of American schools by a group of school principals visiting from Haiti.

Life, Rise, & Reign of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier

  • François Duvalier’s Birth (1907)
    Son of Duval Duvalier and Ulyssia Abraham, François Duvalier was born on April 14, 1907, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 
  • François Duvalier’s Political Life (1930s)
    In 1932, Duvalier co-founded a journal titled Les Griots based on the ideology of Négritude, which emphasized African cultures instead of Eurocentrism. This was the beginning of Duvalier's political career.
  • François Duvalier’s Medical Career (1930s to 1940s)
    From 1934 to 1946, Duvalier worked as a health physician in rural Haiti. He later served as Director General of the National Health Service and Minister of Health. 
  • Papa Doc Comes to Power (1957)
    In 1957, Duvalier, later known as Papa Doc, was elected president of Haiti. 
  • Tonton Makout: Duvalier’s Militia (1959)
    Upon his election, Duvalier took advantage of the existing system established during the U.S. occupation of Haiti to re-arm Haitian peasants, a marginalized group, in exchange for their loyalty. The militia’s tasks included: persecuting the population, conducting purges and raids, and tracking and killing Duvalier’s political opponents.
  • Feminist and Journalist Yvonne Hakim Rimpel’s Assault (1958)
    Duvalier’s first recorded victim was the feminist and journalist Yvonne Hakim Rimpel. 
  • Political Rival Frank Legendre’s Disappearance (1959)
  • Priests Expelled: La Phalange Repression (1959)
    Government officials expelled four priests from Haiti after La Phalange, a Catholic newspaper, published an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education to challenge the decree of December 15.
  • Martial Law (1961)
    Martial Law and state-imposed curfews became frequent, disrupting social activities in Haiti.
  • Author Jacques Stephen Alexis’ Kidnapping (1961)
    On April 22, 1961, the Tonton Makout kidnapped prolific Haitian writer Jacques Stephen Alexis and his supporters.
  • Threat of a Coup Leads to 1963 Massacre (1963)
    After an unsuccessful attempt to abduct Papa Doc’s son Jean Claude, Duvalier went on a killing spree, arresting more than 100 people and killing potential suspects.
  • Continuous massacres, assassinations, executions, torture, and rape marked the rest of Duvalier’s presidency. The government targeted both ordinary people and high-ranking officials suspected of dissent. Enduring Murderous Repression (1969)

Life, Rise, & Reign of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier

Political Relations and Interventions

  • Historical Relationship (1824)
    After Haiti achieved independence, African Americans considered Haiti a haven to escape from white supremacy in the U.S. Haitian President Jean-Pierre Boyer sought to bring African American immigrants to Haiti. U.S. anti-abolitionists saw Haiti as a solution to the racial problem that they believed freeing the slaves originated. U.S. interests sought a trade relationship with Haiti. 
  • US Foreign Policy in Latin America during the Cold War (1955)
    During the Cold War the United States sought to use foreign policy and aid in Latin America and the Caribbean as a way of deterring the spread of communism. This was the framework for the relationship between the U.S. and Haiti.
  • Attempted US Coup d’Etat (1958)
    In 1958, led by former Tuskegee Airman Alix "Sonson" Pasquet, two Haitians and five Americans attempted an unsuccessful coup against Duvalier. 
  • Senator George Smathers Visits Haiti (1960)
    In 1960, Florida Senator Smathers visited Haiti and other Latin American countries to strengthen trade relations with “the second best customer of the U.S.
  • Setting the Stage for François Duvalier (1800s to 1900s)
    The 1915 U.S. occupation of Haiti fundamentally altered the mechanisms of the Haitian government, creating a structure that placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie, which limited the ways in which Haiti's marginalized groups could challenge the status quo. 
  • Kennedy’s “New Alliance For Progress” (1961)
  • White Privilege: Using US Political Power (1961)
  • Haiti’s Foreign Affairs: Behind the Curtain (1962)
    The U.S. policy of containment during the Cold War led to the Kennedy and Johnson administration's silence regarding the abuses of the Duvalier regime. In turn, Duvalier leveraged the communist threat during the Cold War in order to maintain his power.

Development & Perception of “Other”

  • Encountering US Racialization (1957)
    The migration of Haitians to New Orleans began after the Haitian Revolution and continued into the 20th century. Many encountered racial discrimination.
  • Racialized Backlash (1960s to 1970s)
    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the arrival of Haitian immigrants from marginalized backgrounds brought about a racialized backlash.
  • US Responds Differently to Haitian Immigrants (1960s to 1970s)
    While the U.S. granted Cuban refugees fleeing the Castro regime asylum, the U.S. treated Haitian refugees differently. In 1963, the U.S. government deported the first 25 Haitians to arrive by boat from the Bahamas. 

Political & Social Activism in Haiti, the United States, & Abroad

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