Race And The United States Occupation Of Haiti

1415 words - 6 pages

The United States foreign expansion after the Civil War was characterized by an intensified interest in establishing political and military control in the Caribbean and the Pacific. One of the most important nations in the Caribbean was the French colony of Saint-Dominigue which would later be named Haiti following a slave rebellion resulting in the Haitian Revolution. Saint-Dominigue became the single richest colony in the western hemisphere, including the United States. By the 1780s, Saint-Domingue produced about 40 percent of all the sugar and 60 percent of all the coffee consumed in Europe and accounted for more coffee and sugar exports than every other colony in the British West Indies, combined. The role of race played a predominant role in the United States occupation of Haiti between 1915 and 1934 due to the class distinctions already present in Haiti as well as the bigotries and racism expressed by the Americans.
Haiti is one of the most unusual countries in Latin America as it is the only French-speaking nation in the Caribbean as well as the first to receive its independence. Haiti’s most unique characteristic, however, is in regard to race. “The population of Haiti on the eve of the French Revolution was made up of over 90% black slaves, with whites numbering only about 40,000 out of a total population of 519,000” . This large disparity can be explained due to the fact that, at one time, Haiti was one of the wealthiest places in the world during French colonization. At the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the sugar production of Saint Dominique exceeded that of all the British West Indies, and on the eve of the revolution the colony accounted for more than one-third of the foreign commerce of France. “Saint-Domingue had greatly overshadowed its Spanish counterpart in terms of wealth and population and quickly became the richest French colony in the New World due to the immense profits from the sugar, coffee and indigo industries” . In order to create this kind of production a massive slave population was needed that far exceeded the numbers found in the United States and other colonies. The French-enacted Code Noir, establishing strict codes on slave treatment and permissible freedom making Saint Dominigue one of the most brutally efficient slave colonies in the western world. These black codes would have a profound impact in the following years, even after the successful Haitian revolution resulting in the elimination of slavery and the establishment of Haiti as the first republic ruled by people of African ancestry. Unlike the neighboring Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where language, religion and elements of African culture were shared by the whole society regardless of color and class, Haiti was divided into two distinct segments: There were two languages, the official French used by the elites and Haitian Creole, a distinct language of obscure origins, spoken by the masses” . Many French colonists bore mulatto...

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