Major Events Ordered by Date:
Christopher Columbus lands and claims the island of Hispaniola for Spain. The Spanish build the New World’s first settlement at La Navidad on Haiti’s north coast.
Spanish control over the colony ends with the Treaty of Ryswick, which divided the island into French-controlled St. Domingue and Spanish Santo Domingo.
For over 100 years the colony of St. Domingue (known as the Pearl of the Antilles) was France’s most important overseas territory, which supplied it with sugar, rum, coffee and cotton. At the height of slavery, near the end of the 18th century, some 500,000 people mainly of western African origin, were enslaved by the French.
A slave rebellion is launched by the Jamaican-born Boukman leading to a protracted 13-year war of liberation against St. Domingue’s colonists and later, Napoleon’s army which was also assisted by Spanish and British forces. The slave armies were commanded by General Toussaint Louverture who was eventually betrayed by his officers Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe who opposed his policies, which included reconciliation with the French. He was subsequently exiled to France where he died.
The Haitian blue and red flag is devised at Arcahie, by taking the French tricolor, turning it in its side and removing the white band. The Battle of Vertières marks the ultimate victory of the former slaves over the French.
The hemispere’s second Republic is declared on January 1, 1804 by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Haiti, or Ayiti in Creole, is the name given to the land by the former Taino-Arawak peoples, meaning “mountainous country.”
Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines is assassinated.
Civil war racks the country, which divides into the northern kingdom of Henri Christophe and the southern republic governed by Alexandre Pétion. Faced with a rebellion by his own army, Christophe commits suicide, paving the way for Jean-Pierre Boyer to reunify the country and become President of the entire republic in 1820.
President Boyer invades Santo Domingo following its declaration of independence from Spain. The entire island is now controlled by Haiti until 1844.
France recognizes Haitian independence in exchange for a financial indemnity of 150 million francs. Most nations including the United States shunned Haiti for almost forty years, fearful that its example could stir unrest there and in other slaveholding countries. Over the next few decades Haiti is forced to take out loans of 70 million francs to repay the indemnity and gain international recognition.
The United States finally grants Haiti diplomatic recognition sending Frederick Douglass as its Consular Minister.
President Woodrow Wilson orders the U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti and establish control over customs-houses and port authorities. The Haitian National Guard is created by the occupying Americans. The Marines force peasants into corvée labor building roads. Peasant resistance to the occupiers grows under the leadership of Charlemagne Peralt, who is betrayed and assassinated by Marines in 1919.
The U.S. withdraws from Haiti leaving the Haitian Armed Forces in place throughout the country.
Thousands of Haitians living near the border of the Dominican Republic are massacred by Dominican soldiers under the orders of President General Trujillo.
After several attempts to move forward democratically ultimately fail, military-controlled elections lead to victory for Dr. François Duvalier, who in 1964 declares himself President-for-Life and forms the infamous paramilitary Tonton Macoute. The corrupt Duvalier dictatorship marks one of the saddest chapters in Haitian history with tens of thousands killed or exiled.
“Papa-Doc” Duvalier dies in office after naming his 19 year-old son Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) as his successor. Baby Doc proves more ruthless than his father.
The first Haitian “boat people” fleeing the country land in Florida.
Widespread protests against repression of the nation’s press take place.
“Baby-Doc” Duvalier exploits international assistance and seeks to attract investment leading to the establishment of textile-based assembly industries. Attempts by workers and political parties to organize are quickly and regularly crushed.