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

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #19: The Downward Trend Continues [ Audio Version]

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

(1) What effect did political instability have on the social development of Ayiti?
(2) Did the government of Haiti ratify the Monroe Doctrine? If not, how was the United States able to it use it to invade Haiti?
(3) How long did the United States occupy Ayiti and what did it do during the period of occupation?
(4) Why did Papa Doc Duvalier create the Tonton Makouts?

Class #19 Essay

Between 1804 and 1915, Haiti's political legacy was made crystal clear. Dessalines had been assassinated, Christophe had committed suicide in order to avoid being assassinated, and Boyer had been overthrown. But at least Christophe and Boyer had remained in power for several years. By contrast, during the 70 year period between 1845 and 1915, there were 22 heads of state. Only one served out his complete term.

All of these decades of political instability, nearly 100 years since independence, made it nearly impossible to achieve any worthwhile social progress. The Ayitian country, the Ayitian people, continued a downward trend that words can not capture the essence of. Meanwhile, the British, French, Germans and Americans were anxious to use Haiti to their commercial and military advantage. None of them were the least bit concerned about promoting Ayitian stability or helping the Ayitian people. It was as if they not only wanted to ruin Haiti, they wanted to use its woeful condition as a statement that all Black nations are destined to fall into political disarray and economic poverty.

The United States used the Monroe Doctrine, a policy meant to prevent European intervention in the Western Hemisphere, as a justification for invading Haiti in 1915. The fact that the Monroe Doctrine was not a Haitian law, the fact that US intervention was not intended to benefit Haiti, and the fact that Haiti did not ask for US intervention were of no import as far as the United States was concerned. The Haitians bitterly opposed their presence, but the Americans took control anyway and remained for 19 years. While there, the United States made every important governmental decisions in the country. The Haitian constitution was rewritten, and the article forbidding foreign ownership of land in Haiti was revoked. The US created a Haitian army to police the citizens of Haiti. This proved to be a serious blow to Haitian democracy because whoever controlled the Army would eventually control the people and come to control the Haitian government.

In 1957 François "Papa Doc" Duvalier was elected president of Haiti in an election controlled by the military. In order to protect himself from a military coup, he created the "Tonton Makouts", a personal police force that terrorized his political opponents and came to have more power than the military. Duvalier changed the Haitian constitution and declared himself president for life.

Duvalier was a ruthless dictator, and Haiti became the poorest country in the world. In 1971 "Papa Doc" died, leaving the country under the control of his son, Jean Claude.

In 1986, Jean Claude resigned and left the country. His departure pleased most Haitians but did not bring about political or economic stability. There were four military coups in the next five years.

In 1991, Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected president of Haiti. He was quickly overthrown by a military coup orchestrated by the United States government. In Aristide's absence, René Préval was elected president. In February, 2001 Aristide returned and became the first democratically reelected president of Haiti. Again, Aristide was removed from office by white power countries (the United States, Canada and France); this time without the pretext of a military coup.

Thus, 200 years of Haitian history has passed since independence, but barely a thing has changed. In the year 2004, Haiti was pretty close to where it was in the year 1804. Yet, Haiti's people are better off than most former slaves because they have their own nation, a fact that opens the door to a myriad of positive progressions and possibilities. However, white power countries and governments are, today, just as intent on keeping Haiti from acquiring any degree of political or social normalcy as they were 200 years ago.

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