jean jacques dessalines
President: Years in Office: Notes about term: Jean Jacques Dessalines 1804 – 1806 assassinated Henri Christophe 1807 – 1820 suicide Alexander Petion 1807 – 1818 died in office Jean Pierre Boyer 1818 – 1843 overthrown Riviere Riviere-Herard 1843 – 1844 overthrown Philippe Guerrier 1844 – 1845 died in office Jean […]

List of Haitian Presidents

Jean-Claude Duvalier Baby Doc
The first few years after Jean-Claude Duvalier’s installation as Haiti’s ninth president-for-life were a largely uneventful extension of his father’s rule. Jean-Claude was a feckless, dissolute nineteen-year-old, who had been raised in an extremely isolated environment and who had never expressed any interest in politics or Haitian affairs. He initially […]

Jean-Claude Duvalier, 1971-86

Francois Duvalier "Papa Doc"
Like many Haitian leaders, Duvalier produced a constitution to solidify his power. In 1961 he proceeded to violate the provisions of that constitution, which had gone into effect in 1957. He replaced the bicameral legislature with a unicameral body and decreed presidential and legislative elections. Despite a 1957 prohibition against […]

François Duvalier, 1957-71

Haitian President Sténio Vincent
The Garde was a new kind of military institution in Haiti. It was a force manned overwhelmingly by blacks, with a United States- trained black commander, Colonel Démosthènes Pétrus Calixte. Most of the Garde’s officers, however, were mulattoes. The Garde was a national organization; it departed from the regionalism that […]

Politics and the Military, 1934-57

United States Occupation, 1915-34
Representatives from the United States wielded veto power over all governmental decisions in Haiti, and Marine Corps commanders served as administrators in the provinces. Local institutions, however, continued to be run by Haitians, as was required under policies put in place during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. In line with […]

United States Occupation, 1915-34

Leyburn summarizes this chaotic era in Haitian history. “Of the twenty-two heads of state between 1843 and 1915, only one served out his prescribed term of office, three died while serving, one was blown up with his palace, one presumably poisoned, one hacked to pieces by a mob, one resigned. […]

Decades of Instability, 1843-1915

Jean-Pierre Boyer
Jean-Pierre Boyer shared Pétion’s conciliatory approach to governance, but he lacked his stature as a leader. The length of Boyer’s rule (1818-43) reflected his political acumen, but he accomplished little. Boyer took advantage of internecine conflict in Santo Domingo by invading and securing the Spanish part of Hispaniola in 1822. […]

Boyer: Expansion and Decline

Henry Christophe crowned "King of Haiti"
Many candidates succeeded Dessalines, but only three approached his stature. Most Haitians saw Henry Christophe as the most logical choice. He had served as a commander under Toussaint and could therefore claim the former leader’s mantle and some of his mystique. Christophe was black like Dessalines, but he lacked Dessalines’s […]

Christophe’s Kingdom and Pétion’s Republic

On January 1, 1804, Haiti proclaimed its independence. Through this action, it became the second independent state in the Western Hemisphere and the first free black republic in the world. Haiti’s uniqueness attracted much attention and symbolized the aspirations of enslaved and exploited peoples around the globe. Nonetheless, Haitians made […]

Independence of Haiti

Toussaint L'Ouverture took up the Spanish banner in February 1793 commanding his own forces. By the year's end, Toussaint effectively controlled north-central of the island.
Social historian James G. Leyburn has said of Toussaint Louverture that “what he did is more easily told than what he was.” Although some of Toussaint’s correspondence and papers remain, they reveal little of his deepest motivations in the struggle for Haitian autonomy. Born sometime between 1743 and 1746 in […]

Toussaint Louverture

Haiti Slave Revolt Map
The Slave Rebellion of 1791 Violent conflicts between white colonists and black slaves were common in Saint-Domingue. Bands of runaway slaves, known as maroons (marrons), entrenched themselves in bastions in the colony’s mountains and forests, from which they harried white-owned plantations both to secure provisions and weaponry and to avenge […]

The Haitian Revolution

"Free Women of Color with their Children and Servants in a Landscape", oil painting, Agostino Brunias
By the mid-eighteenth century, a territory largely neglected under Spanish rule had become the richest and most coveted colony in the Western Hemisphere. By the eve of the French Revolution, Saint-Domingue produced about 60 percent of the world’s coffee and about 40 percent of the sugar imported by France and […]

Colonial Society

Reportedly expelled by the Spanish from Saint Christopher (Saint Kitts), the original French residents of Tortuga Island (Ile de la Tortue), off the northwest coast of Hispaniola, sustained themselves mostly through two means: curing the meat and tanning the hides of wild game, and pirating Spanish ships. The former activity […]

French Settlement and Sovereignty

Control of the Caribbean most intensely fought for on the island of Hispaniola
Although Hispaniola never realized its economic potential under Spanish rule, it remained strategically important as the gateway to the Caribbean. The Caribbean region provided the opportunity for seafarers from Britain, France, and the Netherlands to impede Spanish shipping, to waylay galleons crammed with gold, and to establish a foothold in […]

French Colonialism

The island of Hispaniola (La Isla Española), which today is occupied by the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was one of several landfalls Christopher Columbus made during his first voyage to the New World in 1492. Columbus established a makeshift settlement on the north coast, which he dubbed […]

Spanish Discovery and Colonization

Christopher Columbus First Voyage to Hispaniola
Major Events Ordered by Date: 1492 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. 1697 Spanish control over the colony ends with the Treaty of Ryswick, which divided the island into French-controlled […]

Timeline of Historical Events

Last Updated/ Ultima actualización: January 17, 2002 PREAMBLE The Haitian people proclaim this constitution in order to: Ensure their inalienable and imprescriptible rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; in conformity with the Act of Independence of 1804 and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man of […]

The Constitution of Haiti

(The Dessalines Song) is the national anthem of Haiti, honoring Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Written by Justin Lhérisson and composed by Nicolas Geffrard and adopted in 1904. French: Pour le Pays, Pour la Patrie, Marchons unis, Marchons unis. Dans nos rangs point de traîtres! Du sol soyons seuls maîtres. Marchons unis, Marchons […]

The National Anthem of Haiti: La Dessalinienne