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Haiti, an island nation is located in the Caribbean. It shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic and occupies three-eighths of it. The capital is Port-au-Prince and 95% of the population is Black. The official language is French and Haitian Creole is also recognized.

Christopher Columbus first set foot on the land in 1492 and claimed the island for Spain. He named the island La Isla Española, which means "the Spanish Island." That name later morphed into Hispaniola.

The island was divided into five sections, each one with a different chief in charge. Two of these sections, Jaragua and Marien, are where Haiti stands today.

Spain ruled Hispaniola until early in the 17th century when the discovery of gold and silver in New Spain (Mexico) took all of their attention.

In 1697, Spain ceded the land to France, which beefed up the sugar cane plantations and brought more slaves from Africa.

In 1791, former slave Toussaint L'Ouverture led a revolt to free the French slaves in Haiti. In 1801, he invaded Santo Domingo, which was still under Spanish rule. He won the invasion and gained control of the entire island of Hispaniola. He invited some of the former French colonists to return to their plantations but ensured that the former slaves would work as free laborers.

France was unable to send troops because of the war with Britain made it impossible to do so. In 1802, the war between France and England was ended with a peace accord signed in Amiens.

Free to send troops to Haiti, France sent 25,000 soldiers to regain Haiti, which they did in spite of the fact that yellow fever had decimated the French. They captured L'Ouverture and he was taken to France where in less than a year, he died of pneumonia in prison.

In 1803, the war with Britain was renewed, and France was soon to lose control of Haiti again.

Another former slave, Jean-Jaques Dessalines took over as leader of the revolt. He changed the name from Saint-Domingue to Haiti, which had been the Indian name. He then declared Haiti's independence from France on January 1, 1804. At that time, he also declared himself Emperor Jacques I.

His iron rule and brutality provoked unrest once again and a new insurrection began. He died in 1806 while trying to quell that revolt.

When Dessalines died, Henri Christophe, one of his generals, declared himself Henry I, King of Haiti. When King Henry I died in 1820, Jean Pierre Boyer took the reins of power. In 1843 a revolt led by Charles Rivière-Hérard overthrew Boyer. Rivière-Hérard established parliamentary rule and a constitution, the Constitution of 1843.

In 1847, General Faustin Soulouque, who was a former slave and who had fought in the 1791 rebellion, became president.

In 1849, two years into his presidency, the popular President Soulouque declared himself Emperor Faustin, and in 1859, General Fabre Geffrard deposed him.

Immediately after taking office, Geffrard cut the army from 30,000 to 15,000. By 1861, he had reopened schools and made sure roads were fixed, and he revived an old policy of inviting African-Americans to move to Haiti. In 1862, he got rid of the legislature, gave himself two plantations and a raise, and raided the army and hospital funds.

In 1957, physician and Voodoo practitioner Francois Duvalier, called "Papa Doc" by everyone, was elected president of Haiti. In 1959, he had a heart attack and his chief aide, Clement Barbot, ruled in his place, and when Papa Doc recovered, he jailed Barbot. When Barbot was released from prison, he attempted to organize an uprising, and Papa Doc had him murdered. The U.S. stopped sending aid to Haiti due to his tyranny. Numerous insurrections were attempted unsuccessfully. He then declared that he was president for life.

When he died in 1971, his son, 19-year old Jean-Claude, or "Baby Doc" took over as president for life. He accomplished quite a bit, including a small revival of tourism and the economy, but political freedom, high unemployment, and dismal living conditions caused more strife, and then another revolt started in 1985, and soon all of Haiti was in rebellion. Baby Doc had to flee to France on a U.S. Air Force jet.

U.S. President Reagan put the pressure on Baby Doc to leave Haiti.

In 2004, Haiti ousted yet another president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, at which time Baby Doc announced that he was going to return to Haiti to run for the presidency, though he didn't do it.

In 2011, after 25 years in self-exile, he did return to his home country. Two days after his return, he was arrested and charged with corruption, theft, and misappropriation of funds while he was president. He pled not guilty in 2013 and died on October 4, 2014 of a heart attack. He was 63.

 

 

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