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Haiti

1492 Christopher Columbus lands in the island that the Arawaks, the indigenous people, call Haïti, which means “mountainous land”; Columbus names the new land Hispaniola (Little Spain), then renames it Santo Domingo.

1496 The Spanish establish a permanent settlement in Santo Domingo, now the capital of the Dominican Republic.

US

1497 John Cabot claims North America for England.

Haiti

1503 The first African slaves arrive in Santo Domingo to replace the Arawaks, who are exploited and massacred by the Spanish.

US

1619 A Dutch slave trader exchanges his cargo of African people for food in Jamestown, Virginia. Within 20 years African slave labor becomes essential to the tobacco economy, the foundation of agrarian exports and wealth in the southern US colonies.

Haiti

1779 France authorizes about 750 African fighters, free men from Haïti to join the American and French troops to fight against British soldiers in Savannah, Georgia, for American independence (General Henri Christophe, the first king of northern Haïti, is among the freedom fighters).

US

1787 Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the US constitution and a mental health treatment pioneer, publishes a technical article on an often fatal illness common to newly arrived West Indies slaves. Rebutting the claim of slave owners that the disease was self-caused, Rush relates mal d’estomac directly to the institution of slavery itself, calling slavery “pathological” and the illness the result of a severe grief reaction.

Haiti

1791 A massive slave revolt begins with a religious Vodou ceremony led by Boukman, a Maroon (runaway slave) and Vodou priest from Jamaica.

US

1791 President George Washington lends $40,000 to the French to assist with quelling the slave revolt in Haiti, along with arms and ammunition. In Louisiana 23 slaves are hanged and 3 white sympathizers are deported after a slave revolt.

Haiti

1801 A former slave, Toussaint Louverture, successfully leads a slave revolution, liberates Hispaniola, unifies the island into one territory and abolishes slavery.

US

1831 Nat Turner leads the most sustained and successful slave revolt in the US, but is hanged with others in Virginia. Laws become ever harsher.

Haiti

1804 Haïti becomes the first independent black nation in the world, and former slave Jean-Jacques Dessalines is crowned Emperor of Haïti.

US

1804 Lewis and Clark explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. Terrified that slaves in the US might follow Haiti’s example and thus interfere with the economic exploitation of the new territory, President Jefferson called on Congress to abolish trade between the US and Haiti.

Haiti

1806 Dessalines is assassinated in Port-au-Prince and Haïti is divided into two countries, a black-led kingdom in the north led by Henri Christophe and a Mulatto-led republic in the south headed by Alexandre Pétion.

US

1806 Trade between Haiti and the US is formally shut down, allowing President Jefferson to claim that economic devastation is what happens when Africans govern themselves.

Haiti

1807 The Senate impeaches Christophe, and Pétion is elected president of Haïti.

US

1808 Slave importation is declared illegal in US; however some 250,000 slaves were illegally imported from 1808-1860.

Haiti

1816 Fleeing from the Spanish Army, Simón Bolívar, the liberator of Latin America, meets with Pétion in Port-au-Prince; Pétion gives weapons, money and food to Bolívar and allows him to recruit Haïtians to join him in the fight for freedom; Pétion requests that Bolívar free all slaves in the countries he will liberate.

US

1816 The US Congress, acting on recommendations from “The American Colonization Society,” authorizes $100,000 to establish the Republic of Liberia, said to be the opportunity for a better life in Africa for free Blacks. African Americans themselves argue that the Society propaganda reinforced racial stereotypes and removal of freed Blacks will perpetuate slavery.

Haiti

1818 Pétion dies of natural causes, and his personal secretary, Jean-Pierre Boyer, is elected president for life. Boyer governs Haïti for 25 years and the entire island for 21 years.

US

1822 Denmark Vesey, a Methodist and freed slave in South Carolina, leads an unsuccessful uprising and is hanged. Southern states tighten their slave codes.

1824 At the invitation of the Haitian government some 6,000 Americans—free people of color—emigrated to Haiti from New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

Haiti

1842 A violent earthquake shakes the entire island, causes serious damage and destroys the city of Cap Haïtian.

US

1843 Some 1,200 Methodist ministers owned 1,500 slaves, and members owned 25,000 slaves. The Methodist Church itself remained neutral on slavery, but the question of slavery divided the church in 1844 when the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, became its own organization.

Haiti/US

1862 The US officially recognizes Haiti as a nation.

Haiti

1915 Under the pretext of social and economic instabilities, the United States invades Haïti and assumes control of the country’s finances and natural resources.

US

1915 Militarily the US occupation is assumed to protect against a German initiative to build a coaling station at Môle Saint Nicholas, a port in Haiti’s northwest.

1918 In a construction boom US Marines and Marine Corps engineers build the National Palace in Port-au-Prince. Some Library of Congress historians suggest they may have used “forced labor.” The 2010 earthquake destroyed much of the palace.

Haiti

1934 The United States withdraws its troops from Haïti but maintains fiscal control of the country until 1941.

US

1943 Bauxite, an ore used in the manufacture of aluminum, is discovered in Haiti by the US corporation Reynolds Metals Company. The US Government urges Haiti to award an exclusive mining contract to Reynolds, though terms are not so favorable to Haiti and very favorable to Reynolds. Mining was discontinued in the mid-1980s due to poor productivity.

Haiti

1957 Dr. François Duvalier, “Papa Doc,” is elected president for a six-year term.

US

1957 1957 The US Congress passes the first in a series of civil rights acts, strengthening suffrage rights for African Americans and providing legal remedies for persons denied their right to vote. Eventually separate facilities such as drinking fountains and seating in public places would be outlawed.

On the other hand, the US supports the dictatorship of François Duvalier, whose policies on communism (he opposed) and economic development (he encouraged foreign interests to take over Haiti’s commerce and industry) were positive for US control in the Caribbean.

Haiti

1964 Duvalier amends the constitution, declares himself president for life and establishes a dictatorship with the help of the military and the Tonton Macoutes.

US

1964 Four African American girls are killed in a bomb blast on a Sunday morning at the 16th Street Church, Birmingham, Alabama, drawing international attention to the struggle for civil rights still going on in the US.

Haiti

1980 Creole becomes an official language in Haïti in addition to French.

US

1979 The pigs of Haiti are believed to be infected with swine flu. All are exterminated at the direction of the US Department of Agriculture. The small “cochon creole,” or black pig, had been part of Haiti’s agricultural economy since the arrival of the Spanish. Replacement pigs ate more and different food and did not thrive—a calamity for people whose livelihood depended on the cochon creole.

Haiti

1986 Jean-Claude Duvalier flees from Haïti in the wake of mounting popular discontent and is replaced by a governing council, Le Conseil National de Gouvernement (the National Council of Govern¬ment), led by Lieutenant-General Henri Namphy.

US

1984 Leontine T. C. Kelly is elected a bishop of The United Methodist Church—the first African American woman (and only the second woman) to hold that office in any major American denomination.

Haiti

1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest and a popular activist, is elected president for five years.

 

Haiti

1991–1992 Several thousands of Haïtians risk their lives at sea to flee the brutal repression from the military and their paramilitary allies.

US

1991–1992 Captured by the U.S. Coast Guard, the refugees are detained and processed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The majority of them, including unaccompanied minors, are returned to Haïti, and around 11,000 of the refugees are transferred into the United States to seek asylum.

Haiti

1994 The military regime relinquishes power in the face of an imminent U.S. invasion. U.S. forces over¬see a transition to a civilian government. U.S. President Bill Clinton returns Aristide to power and Aristide dissolves the Haïtian army.

US

1994 Aristide, speaking at Stanford University in California, wins no friends in the US with his objections to US Haiti policy. US retaliates with CIA-inspired rumors of Aristide’s mental instability and his encouragement of violence against political opponents.

Haiti

2003 Aristide recognizes Vodou as a religion in Haïti and gives to its adherents the same civil and reli¬gious privileges as Catholics and Protestants.

US

2004 The U.S. government overthrows Aristide and forces him into exile; an interim government led by François Latortue is installed.

Haiti

2009 The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund cancel $1.2 billion of Haïti’s debt (80 percent of the total) after judging it to have fulfilled economic reform and poverty reduction conditions.

US

2009 Former U.S. President Clinton is appointed United Nations special envoy to Haïti.

Haiti

2010 Over 300,000 people are killed when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hits the capital, Port-au-Prince, and its wider region—the worst natural disaster in Haïti since 1842. Three “extraordinary pillars of the women’s movement…each one pioneering advocates” for women and girls in Haiti, die in the earthquake—Magalie Marcelin, Myriam Merlet, and Anne-Marie Coriolan.