Haiti: key historical events

Page last modified 19/7/2020


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See also South, Central, America for other countries in this region


4/10/2014, Jean Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier died, aged 63. He became dictator of Haiti in 1971. Like his father, Papa Doc, he lived in luxury whilst most Haitians lacked paved roads or sewerage. The poorer Haiti was, the more foreign aid came in, to be diverted to luxuries for the Duvaliers. In the 1980s the Haitian economy collapsed, with many fleeing on boats to Florida; in 1986 food riots forced the Duvaliers to flee, on an American plane. He was useful to the USA as an anti-Communist close to Cuba, and Haiti was a non-unionised cheap-labour locale for US businesses. To universal surprise he returned to Haiti in 2011, after the disastrous earthquake, broken, he said, by exile, and claiming he wished to help his country. His ex-wife Michelle had bankrupted him, taking all the money, and Jean Claude was reduced to living in two rented rooms in Paris. A Haitian judge ruled that any charges against him were time-expired.

12/1/2010, A 7.0 magnitude earthquake, the most severe in 200 years, hit Haiti, killing over 316,000 and destroying the capital, Port au Prince. Over 1,000,000 were left homeless.

29/2/2004, Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted in a military coup.

16/12/1990, Bertrand Aristide of the Left-wing Lavalas Party was elected President of Haiti, ending 3 decades of military rule.

18/9/1988, In Haiti, General Namphy was deposed in a military coup.

19/6/1988, In Haiti, Leslie Manigat, civilian President, was deposed in a military coup and replaced by General Henri Namphy.

7/2/1988, In Haiti, Leslie Manigat was inaugurated as President, ending 2 years of military rule.

7/2/1986. Baby Doc Duvalier was ousted from government in Haiti, ending 28 years of one-family rule there. He fled to exile in France, taking perhaps US$ 100 million with him. In Port-au-Prince, members of Duvalier’s secret police, the Tonton Macoutes, were lynched by an angry mob.

21/4/1971. The Haitian dictator Papa Doc Duvalier, or Francois Duvalier, died in his bed aged 64, after ruling for 14 years. He survived six assassination attempts. He was succeeded by his son, 19-year old Jean Claude.

23/9/1957. Dr Francois ‘Papa doc’ Duvalier was elected President of Haiti. He had promised to end corrupt military regimes in Haiti but his own regime mixed voodoo with the presence of brutal secret police, the Ton Ton Macoute.

25/9/1954, Papa Doc Duvalier won Presidential elections in Haiti.

6/8/1934, US Marines withdrew from Haiti, ending 19 years of military occupation.

27/7/1915. Revolution in Haiti.

5/2/1911, Revolution in Haiti was suppressed after its leader, General Montreuil Guillaume, was captured by government troops and shot.

2/12/1908, Rebels captured the Haitian capital, Port au Prince, and Alexis fled on board a French ship. Alexis died in Jamaica in 4/1910. Generral Simon then became President.

1908, Further revolution in Haiti after (12/1907) anti-government conspirators had been arrested and sentenced to death. The revolution spread and by 1/1908 Goniave, St Marc and other towns were controlled by the insurgents. President Alexis regained control and intitally pardoned the rebels. In March 1908 however he reversed this and executed some of them. Further death sentences on rebels were pronounced in Seotember 1908, and revolution broke out again in November.

14/4/1907, Francois Duvalier, Haitian President and dictator, was born.

1902, Haiti endured 9 months of civil was until, in December, Nord Alexis was elected President. Under his rule there was instability and riots. In 1904 Haitian soldiers attacked French and German representatives, and these countires exacted reprisals on Haiti.

1896, General Tiresias Simon Sam took power. He ruled until forced to flee to Paris in 1902.

1888-89, Civil war in Haiti between Generals Legitime and Hippolyte. The latter gained suporemacy,and ruled with harsh absolute authority until his death in 1896.

1867, Sylvester Salnave became President but was shot after two years. He was succeeded in turn by Nissage Saget (1870), Dominique (1874) and Boisrond-Canal (1876). All of these were driven into exile by revolution. Then came President Salomon, who succeeded in ruling for ten years before he too was driven into exile by revolution.

1858, Emperor Faustin I was deposed and a Republic restored under President Fabre Geffrard. Geffrard’s rule was fair but firm, and in 1867 popular discontent forced him to flee to Jamaicas.

1849, Political order returned to Haiti when Soulouque proclaimed himself Emperor Faustin I.

1844-49, Haiti endured political instability, with a rapid series of presidents and depositions.

1844, The Dominican Republic seceded from Haiti. This division of Hispaniola has been maintained since then.

3/1843, Jean Boyer, President of Haiti, was overthrown and he fled to Jamaica. There had been economic problems after Boyer had paid an indemnity of 150,000 Francs to France in return for recognition of Haitian independence.

1818, General Jean Pierre Boyer (1776-1850) became ruler of Haiti. In 1822 he took advantage of dissension in the (Spanish) Dominican Republic and invaded it. However he was deposed by a revolution in 1843, and fled the island. In 1844 the Dominican Republic proclaimed its independence from Haiti.

1810, Hostilities between Henri Christophe and Alexandre Sabes Petion ended. Henry Christophe became King Henry I of Haiti. However his rule, like that of Dessalines, proved tyrannical, there was an insurrection, and he committed suicide in 1820.

1806, Haiti (Hispaniola)  was now territorially split three ways. In the north, Henri Christophe (1767-1820) took control. The south was under Alexandre Sabes Petion ((1770-1818). The Spanish re-estalished colonial control in the east (Dominican Republic).

17/10/1806, The tyrannical Emperor Jacques I, first ruler of Haiti, was assassinated. Henri Christophe was appointed president of Haiti, becoming King Henri I in 1811. He committed suicide in 1820.

10/1804, Jacques Dessalines proclaimed himself Emperor. He massacred all the White people in Haiti. His rule proved tyrannical and he lost public support.

1/1/1804, Haiti became independent from France, under Jean-Jacques Dessalines, after a 13-year anti-colonial war. Haiti was the first state vin Latin America to gain independence.

29/8/1803. General Dessalines proclaimed the independence of Haiti. In 1844 the Dominican Republic seceded from Haiti.

1801, Toussaint L’Ouverture succeeded in restoring order and now proclaimed a constitutional government with himself as Governor for life. France, however, was suspoicious of this move. Bonaparte, Consul in France, sent his brother in law, General LeClerc, with 25,000 troops, to restore French rule. Neither side couod gain supremacy and France offered a peace treaty to Toussaint L’Ouverture. This however was a ruse and as soon as Toussaint L’Ouverture had laid down arms he was seized and taken to prison in France, where he died in 1803. This infuriated the Black population who restarted the rebellion under General Dessalines (1758-1806).

1795, By treaty with Spain, France acquired sovereignty over the whole island (Hispaniola).

1793, French Commissioners, in an attempt to resolve the rebellion, proclaimned an end to slavery. However this proclamation was ignored by the landowners.

8/1791, Haitian slaves massacred the French as a rebellion under Black leader Toussaint L’Ouverture started a 13-year conflict. The Haitians put up strong resistance against French, Dutch and English troops.

28/2/1776, Jean Boyer, President of Haiti, was born (died in Paris 1850).

1697, Hispaniola was divided between Spain and France.

1512, The Spanish, having failed to extract slave labour from the indigenous Haitians, now began to import slaves from Africa.

1506, The Spanish began sugar cultivation on Haiti.

6/12/1492. Christopher Columbus landed on an island he called Hispaniola, now Haiti, in search of gold. He had won backing from Spain for his expedition on condition he found gold to finance another war by Christian Spain against the Moors. Many Christians also believed that Christ’s second coming would not occur until all pagans had been converted to Christianity or at least defeated by Christendom.


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