Friday, January 29, 2010

A Statement on the Crisis in Haiti from The Department of African and African-American Studies @ Duke University

From the Department of African & African American Studies at Duke University

On the Crisis in Haiti

We are humbled by the tribulations of the people of Haiti. At this time of
destruction, suffering, death, and survival, we offer our condolences, our
prayers, and our aid.

At the same time, as scholars of the African and African-American
experience, we are dismayed by the inhumanity of those who have used this
tragedy as an opportunity to espouse groundless explanations for Haiti's
troubles. The events unfolding in the Caribbean are the result of neither a
supernatural curse nor of a cultural pathology. And we hope that as the
relief efforts currently underway turn their focus to rebuilding, Haiti's
international partners will draw more appropriate lessons from the history
of Haiti's unique predicament in the world of nations.

Until 1791, Haitians suffered under one of the most brutal regimes of
slavery ever known to mankind, generating astronomical profits for France at
an equally astronomical cost in African lives.

Yet the enslaved Africans of Haiti accomplished the first successful slave
revolution in recorded history. In its commitment to human equality, it
exceeded that of the American Revolution. With donations of money and arms,
Haiti helped to liberate what is now Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama
from the Spanish Empire. For such reasons, Haiti has long served as an
inspiration to the enslaved and the oppressed. This inspiration is likely
the source of the name of Durham's own Hayti neighborhood, like that of its
counterparts across the United States.

And Haiti paid a dear price for its exemplary ambition to freedom. For
example, as a precondition of diplomatic recognition in 1825, Haiti paid
France an indemnity equivalent to roughly $22 billion in today's dollars,
burdening the Haitian state with a crippling debt for generations. In fear
of the example set by Haiti, the US denied diplomatic recognition until
1863, for over half a century. Thus, the slave-holding powers laid siege to
the island nation. Despite an official economic blockade against Haiti by
the US and the European powers, the Haitian peasantry secured a profitable
place in the 19th-century coffee market. However, the US occupation of Haiti
from 1915 to 1934, 20th-century patterns of land acquisition by foreign
corporations, a series of US- and French-backed dictators, and shifts in the
global economy have set Haiti back, without, however, extinguishing the
enormous hope, energy, and skills that Haitians bring to the building of a
new future.

The Haitian people are heirs to a stunningly beautiful culture of collective
labor, self-help, spiritual wisdom, musical performance, and indefatigable
perseverance. The people of Haiti, their energetic diaspora, and their
friends abroad can and must roll up their sleeves and work together for a
better tomorrow.

Duke's Department of African and African American Studies commits itself to
making the gifts and the travails of the Haitian people a continued
inspiration to the entire world. With Haiti we stand united in the pursuit
of clean water, nourishing food, life-sustaining shelter, good health care,
and freedom for all. At this moment of crisis, we focus our prayers, our
donations, and our efforts on saving the lives of our beloved Haitian
brothers and sisters.

--The Department Faculty


Statement can be accessed @



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