The History of Haiti by Jeff Dalrymple

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The purpose of Baptist Haiti Mission is to serve, support, and
strengthen the church in Haiti. This is accomplished through five primary
avenues- church development, child sponsorship, education, medical aid, and
self-help resources. Being informed of the identity of Haiti is a crucial part
of understanding how to be as efficient as possible in sharing the Gospel with
its people. Much of the identity of Haiti lies in the history of the country,
and how it has shifted throughout the years.

The first European contact with Haitian people groups came in
December of 1492, when Christopher Columbus’ fleet landed on the island of
Hispaniola. Columbus discovered a society ruled by a cacique- a chief of the
Taíno people group. Over the next few centuries, the European influence and
colonization of Haiti continued. The French reign in Haiti lasted for several
hundred years, and great numbers of people from Africa–particularly West Africa–were
brought to Haiti and employed as laborers by the French settlers. Under French
rule, the nation was known as Saint Domingue, and was often cited as the most
prosperous overseas territory of the eighteenth century. By 1791, the people of
Haiti began to revolt against their French overlords, eventually earning their
independence in 1804 (although it wasn’t internationally recognized until 1862).
This was part of the larger French Revolution against the entire empire.
Toussaint Louverture was perhaps the most polarizing individual of the
revolution and fought to end slavery in Haiti in the 1790s. He was born into a
long lineage of slaves, and was particularly well-educated, possessing strong
leadership skills. Louverture remains a national hero and icon to this day. The
Haitian quest for autonomy–along with other factors–led to the Louisiana
Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States. Haitians in large
numbers migrated to the United States, with significant populations settling in
Louisiana. The Haitian-American émigrés, often known as Haitian Creoles,
continue to exert a profound influence on the history and culture of New

For nearly three decades from 1957 until 1986,
Haiti was dominated by the tyrannical dynasty of the Duvalier family, namely Francois
“Papa Doc” Duvalier, followed by his son Jean-Claude. The Duvalier regime was
marred by widespread instability and corruption. Francois Duvalier ruled with
an iron fist, depriving citizens of many rights and suppressing their freedom.
This led to political dissent amongst the Haitian people and Jean-Claude
Duvalier was ousted from his position as President of Haiti in 1986. Despite
the success of the coup in removing the Duvalier family from leadership, the
trend of political instability has continued. Various political factions were
born out of the chaos and battled for supremacy. Some sought to reinstall the
Duvalier regime and prevent political change from coming to Haiti. Others are
aligned with a newer populist movement led by two former Presidents of Haiti–Jean-Bertrand
Aristide and René Préval. Aristide was the first democratically elected
President of Haiti, serving three separate tenures (February 1991- September
1991, October 1994- February 1996, and February 2001- February 2004). Préval
was elected to two terms as President; the first lasting from February 1996-
February 2001, and the second from May 2006- May 2011. Michel Martelly
succeeded Préval as President from May 2011 until his resignation amidst
controversies related to bribery and corruption in February 2016. Jocelerme
Privert was appointed the Provisional President of Haiti until the November
2016 election, which was won by Jovenel Moïse. Moïse was inaugurated as
President on February 7, 2017.

While the past few Presidents of Haiti were
elected by popular vote, the democracy of Haiti is still extremely fragile due
to the recurring issue of corruption in the Haitian government. Natural
disasters, poverty, and disease have plighted the people of Haiti for decades.
The massive earthquake of 2010 gained international attention due to its mass
devastation, with death toll estimates ranging from 220,000- 316,000. Over a
million people were displaced by the catastrophe, and many have yet to find new
homes to the present. Billions of dollars of foreign humanitarian aid were
provided, but the recovery from the earthquake remains far from complete. Many
of the victims had been living in poverty for years even before the disaster,
and what little they had was lost in the earthquake. Additionally, outbreaks of
disease have caused further havoc, particularly the world’s most potent cholera
epidemic in recent years. It has been estimated that three-quarters of the
Haitian population- equating to several million people- survive on less than
$2 USD per day. Such hardship has led to pervasive starvation amongst the
Haitian population.

In brief, the history of Haiti has been
notoriously chaotic and fraught with continuing problems of political
instability, oppression, and poverty. Consequently, a sizeable portion of the
Haitian people rely on foreign aid. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we
direct humanitarian efforts in order to bring change to the men, women, and
children of Haiti. Baptist Haiti Mission seeks to contribute by serving,
supporting, and strengthening the church in Haiti. This endeavor includes not
only evangelism, but exemplifying the message of the Gospel in the form of humanitarian

– Works Cited –

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