The Revolution in Haiti

With this final slaughter, French San Domingo vanished from history and the black nation of Haiti arrived.

Most Americans do not give much thought to Haiti. They may know it is ablack, French-speaking country, which shares the Caribbean island ofHispaniola with the Dominican Republic. From what they see ontelevision they realize it is a poor, violent nation ruled by asuccession of dictators, each seemingly worse than the last. They mayalso associate Haiti with AIDS, crime, drug gangs, boat people andenvironmental disasters. These are all correct associations but thehistory of Haiti puts all this in a broader context. It offers one ofthe most sobering lessons about race in the New World. It is a storythat is rarely told, but the grim realities of the aitian revolutionand its aftermath are just as worthy of our attention today as theywere 200 years ago. None other than Lothrop Stoddard (see AR, Jan.2000), who wrote his Ph.D. thesis on Haiti and later published it as The French Revolution in San Domingo, called the black uprising “the first shock between the ideals of white supremacy and racial equality.” Haiti is a nation of eight million people packed into an area the sizeof Maryland. The illiteracy rate is 60 percent, the unemployment rate65 percent, and the average per capita annual income isestimated at $225-the lowest in the hemisphere and less than one tenththe Latin America/Caribbean average. The United Nations says 60 percentof the population is sexually active by age 12 and the average numberof births per woman is 4.8-the highest in the hemisphere. Thepopulation is expected to double to 16 million by 2030, and Haiti’soverpopulation is ravaging the environment. At the turn of the centuryit still had half of its original forests, but today only 1.5 percentare left. Most Haitians depend on firewood for fuel. Every yearAmerican relief workers plant six million saplings but Haitians cutdown 25-30 million trees, causing the erosion of 15,000 acres offarmland. As a result, 25 of Haiti’s 30 watersheds are essentiallydenuded. Haiti must import 60 percent of its food, and is teeming withpoor, diseased, desperate people eager to come to America. Only the USCoast Guard prevents the nation from moving en masse to Florida. It was not always like this in the land once called “the gem of the West Indies.”