Mar 012012
 

This book covers Haiti’s history from the first importation of enslaved Africans to the months immediately following the devastating 2010 earthquake.  It is as thorough as a textbook and just about as readable, which is to say every paragraph carries a topic sentence followed by a dense recounting of data and information.  There is a big reward for bulling through, but honestly, I found myself reading a lot of topic sentences and skipping the meat.  The meat, Dubois points out most emphatically, is quite rancid.  Haiti is the only place in the world to undergo a successful slave revolt (1803).  Ever thereafter Haitian blacks refused to be dominated and the rest of the world did everything in its racist power to penalize, marginalize, and overwhelm Haiti for the better part of two centuries.  France would only recognize Haiti’s independence, for example, in exchange for crushingly large indemnity payments for lost property.  That property, of course, consisted of enslaved human beings.  The debt was so enormous that Haitian governments embarked on a borrowing treadmill it never escaped.  It took any income it made and paid off debt, never having anything left for infrastructure.  Economic and political instability led the United States to support the needs of its large multinational corporations desire for a stable workforce.  The marines invaded and ran the island as a fiefdom for 35 years at the beginning of the twentieth century (around the same time it was invading and running the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Nicaragua). Dubois’ account is unflinchingly pro-Haitian, but leaves the reader wondering why there is the continuous backdrop of political instability inside Haiti.  No blame is ever really placed within the island.  In this account Haitians, from their first days of slavery to the present, have never had agency over their own destinies.

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