Title of Course: Black History 201: The History of Haiti

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #18: A Downward Spiral [ Audio Version]

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.


(1) What hostilities existed between mulattos and Blacks in Haiti?
(2) How did the white power countries view Haiti?
(3) Was the assassination of Dessalines a sign of bad things to come in Haiti?
(4) Was Christophe interested in uniting Haiti? Why wasn't he able to do so?
(5) What serious mistake did Boyer make while he was president of Ayiti?

Class #18 Essay

Haiti's very fiber was conflict laden; slaves and masters against each other, Blacks, mulattoes and whites against each other, whites in San Domingo and whites in France against each other. At every turn and at every level there had been friction, there continued to be friction. The only environment they knew was based in cruelty and force.

The execution of the whites by Dessalines eliminated one element in that equation, but the others remained, including the hostilities between the mulattos and the Blacks. The mulattos claimed the remaining plantations were theirs, since the former slave masters were their fathers, and didn't want to share ownership of the land with the Blacks. Dessalines distrusted the mulattoes, and most mulattos did not like him because of his dark color. What was once a divided slave colony was now a nation divided.

After Dessalines ordered the killing of all Frenchmen in Ayiti, the country was further ostracized internationally. Neither the nations of Europe nor the United States established diplomatic relations with Ayiti. They viewed Haiti as a threat to their slave based colonies, and their hatred and fears increased when Haiti began helping other countries in South America free themselves from Spain.

Near the end of 1806, Dessalines was assassinated and Ayiti was effectively split into two countries; the smaller one ruled by mulattoes under the leadership of Alexandre Pétion. Henri Christophe was elected leader of the much larger Black nation in the north and immediately attempted to bring the mulattoes back into the fold, but failed. In 1811, Christophe declared himself king of Haiti (Henri I) and created an autocracy modeled after the absolute monarchies of Europe. Like Dessalines, he continued to practice forced labor. Like Dessalines, the defense of his country from internal and external aggression was his major concern, but he was also greatly concerned about educating the Haitian people. He solicited teachers from abroad and built schools, which greatly increased the literacy level of the new Black nation.


When Pétion died in 1818, Christophe tried to reunite the country again, but failed. Jean-Pierre Boyer succeeded Pétion as leader of the mulattoes, and an illness left Christophe paralyzed. In 1820, as he watched his opponents get stronger and his grip on the army get weaker due to his sickness, he decided to commit suicide. That same year Boyer claimed the entire country and Haiti became a single nation again. It remained so until 1844.

In 1825, Boyer made a serious mistake when he agreed to pay France 150 million francs to recognize Ayiti's independence. That not only emptied the Haitian treasury and failed to change the attitude of white countries toward Ayiti, it also left the country in debt to the French far into the future. In 1844 a revolution took place that overthrew Boyer's presidency. The internal conflicts and external animosities that had plagued the country in 1806 were alive and kicking, and Haiti was increasingly suffering the consequences.

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