Haiti's Race History

Haiti's ethnic heritage is complex and has evolved well over two centuries, beginning with the original inhabitants, the Arawaks, followed by the Tainos, and finally the Caraibes. The Caraibes named the island Haiti. Although other names were attached to the island, Haiti has persisted as the modern appellation.


Haiti has been subject to four foreign invasions, or colonizations that began race integration. Spain was first, under whom the island was named Hispaniola. They brought slaves from the Congo to work the land. France was the second intruder, renaming Hispaniola Saint Domingue and battling Spain for control of the island. Spain eventually negotiated with France to rule the western half of Hispaniola. By now, Africans became the dominant race, over the indigenous Indians.

French-Haitian, Toussaint Louverture, Haiti's liberator, drove out the third invaders, England. The fourth invasion occurred in 1915 with the U.S. Occupation that lasted 19 years. All the resulting interbreeding of successive invasions produced a tiny mulatto elite of 5%, the remaining Congolese 95% of the total population.

Haitian immigration began with the French invasion, immigrants re-settling in the North and South Regions. The Haitian Revolution, U.S. Occupation, and Duvalier dictatorships resulted in settlements on the north- and southeastern seaboards of the U.S. At one time, Brooklyn was known as the core of the Haitian Diaspora, but Miami is now considered the nexus.

The strong family cultural traditions carried over from Haiti to the U.S. help modern Haitian-Americans maintain awareness of their ethnic lineage and historical roots.

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Read more: Race in Haiti, Race, Culture

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