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Mark Danner: To heal Haiti, look to history, not nature

Other Voices, from campus | January 29, 2010

Writing in the New York Times, UC Berkeley journalism professor Mark Danner describes America’s role in the forging of the dystopian Haitian state.   After a slave revolt against Napoleonic France, Haiti became the world’s first self-ruled black republic in 1804.

Consequently, writes Danner, “American slaveholders desperately feared that Haiti’s fires of revolt would overleap those few hundred miles of sea and inflame their own human chattel. For this reason, the United States refused for nearly six decades even to recognize Haiti. (Abraham Lincoln finally did so in 1862.) Along with the great colonial powers, America instead rewarded Haiti’s triumphant slaves with a suffocating trade embargo – and a demand that in exchange for peace the fledgling country pay enormous reparations to its former colonial overseer. Having won their freedom by force of arms, Haiti’s former slaves would be made to purchase it with treasure.

“The new nation, its fields burned, its plantation manors pillaged, its towns devastated by apocalyptic war, was crushed by the burden of these astronomical reparations, payments that, in one form or another, strangled its economy for more than a century.”

Danner’s full essay, which outlines how he believes the U.S. can effectively help Haiti, is online.

Comments to “Mark Danner: To heal Haiti, look to history, not nature

  1. It has been two years since this tragedy and haiti still needs our help. We are now concerned for other reasons, but we must not forget.

  2. very shocked story of Haiti tragedy….i pray for Haiti citizens……..

    i seen this tragedy on news channel i was shocked that “what it this , is it real”

  3. It’s not only in Haiti that needs alot of help. I know this is really a tragic unforgettable tragedy that awakens all the people in different countries. There are still some place with people who needs the govt’s and other people’s help and support. So much better to HELP NOW while wait for another tragic moment like this before we move.

  4. There is not only a matter of meteorology. Poor countries have no dams so suffer more flooding, same with the buildings and earthquakes.
    Many of these natural disasters are due to poverty, in our countries may be less damage.
    Rest in peace and let us turn to the living who need our help now.

  5. It seems the same policy prevailed in a disguised manner during the twentieth century
    the former president duvallier took refuge in france in the eighties with all the money he has stolen from his own people in a nice villa near the lake of annecy.

  6. Unfortunately as soon as the news teams leave people will forget all about them again and I wonder if they will receive sufficient aid.

  7. I think that while it is unfortunate what has happened in Haiti, the relief cannot stop there. Millions more around the world still need our help and support.

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