Because this piece attempts to draw a direct link between Haiti’s role in: 1. the events which lead up to US independence; and 2. Trump’s presidency, I did not mention:
The rigging of elections in Haiti by the US;
The installation of Haitian President/s by the US;
The introduction of diseases in Haiti by the UN;
The economic sabotage and exploitation of Haiti by the US and US companies;
How the Clinton Foundation profited from Haiti after the earthquake and starved the country of much needed development;
And the raping and murdering of Haitians by UN Peacekeepers. (All of which were highlighted by Derwayne Wills in a Facebook post)
The story of Haiti’s unique relationship with the United States (US) and its President, Donald Trump is one which I doubt he will ever give much thought to, but one which deserves mention in history books.
Three days ago, Trump reportedly referred to Haiti and several African countries as “shitholes” – known in Guyanese parlance as latrines. Last year he reportedly said that Haitians “all have AIDS,” so this is how he genuinely feels about that country and its people.
I was livid; largely due to the fact that I had gone to Haiti and witnessed firsthand, the resilience and courage of poor black people battling severe economic, social and political conditions which they were not responsible for creating.
What evaded the thoughts of the leader of the free world was that the political status he enjoys today is as a direct and indirect result of Haiti being colonized and subsequently winning its freedom more than two centuries ago.
I will attempt to break this down into two parts: Haiti’s role in the American Revolution which lead to US independence; and Haiti’s historical role in the 2016 elections results.
The American Revolution
In the 18th Century, Haiti (then Saint Domingue) became France’s wealthiest overseas colony. This was largely because of its production of sugar, coffee, indigo, and cotton generated by an enslaved labor force.
James (1963) writes that for 105 years (1697-1802) Haiti was responsible for 40% of the sugar consumed in the entire world. Haiti supplied France with over half the wealth it derived from all its colonies combined in the 18th century. Haiti was ascribed the title: Pearl of the Antilles.
The American Revolution that same century (1765-1783) was an expensive one with the U.S relying heavily on foreign aid. Interestingly, a large chunk of that foreign aid was being sourced from France, which was exploiting Haiti for financial and other gains at the time.
Widmer (2010) also writes that Haiti, then a colony, transshipped arms and supplies and contributed fighters. Similarly, in October 1779, a force of more than 500 freed black Haitians joined American colonists and French troops in a push to drive the British from Savannah in coastal Georgia.
In other words, France enslaved poor black people, converted their labour into dollars, and sent that money back to France to help support the American Revolution – a revolution that lead to US independence, which now clothes Trump with confidence as leader of the free world.
But, as the universe would have it, France invested too much into a Revolution which wasn’t even theirs to begin with, and less than 15 years later the French government went bankrupt. This sparked the French Revolution and subsequently, independence for Haiti – the first of any Black Nation.
The US therefore, is, what it is today, because of Haiti’s historical contributions to its political and economic development; albeit through France.
Before we delve into the more interesting part of this piece, let’s pause to appreciate some facts:
- For four centuries (15th – 19th), the world’s top three major super powers – Spain, France and England – were in war with each other to have control of Haiti for its geographical position
- Haiti was the first and only country in the history of mankind whose independence is the result of a successful slave rebellion
- It was the first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolished slavery; it would take the US another 65 years to follow suit
- It was the first and only Black Nation to have successfully defeated a major world power in a war
- It was the only country in the Western Hemisphere to have defeated three colonial armies for its independence – Spain, England and France
2016 US Presidential Elections
By 1802, Vertieres was the last region in Saint-Domingue not yet lost by France. On November 18th 1803, Haiti won the Battle of Vertieres and forced France to sell to the US, its Louisiana territory (known as the Louisiana Purchase), almost doubling the size of the US.
Hougan Sydney (n.d.) explains that the Louisiana territory makes up today 15 US states and part of Canada. Namely, the US states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska; part of Minnesota, North Dakota and most of South Dakota, northeastern New Mexico, northern Texas, portions of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, all Louisiana and, land that will eventually become part of the current Canadian Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
If we examine the electoral votes of only six of these 15 states – Arkansas (6), Missouri (10), Iowa (6), Oklahoma (7), Kansas (6) and Nebraska (5) – we’d realise that, collectively, they could hand a Presidential candidate the the Presidency – exactly what happened in 2016.
Interestingly, these states, which became part of the US because of Haiti’s efforts, are all Republican in nature, and voted that way in the 2016 US Presidential elections, thereby giving Trump 40 of his 306 electoral votes. If Hillary Clinton had managed to secure those 40 electoral votes, she would have won the Presidency by a margin of six.
Of course the point being made here is not to blame those states for the outcome of the 2016 elections results, or condemn political participation altogether, but rather highlight that Trump, with all his glorious endeavours, owes Haiti, the people of Haiti, poor black people, a debt of gratitude for putting him where he is today.
You see, the US is independent and Trump is President, because Haiti was colonized, robbed, and stripped of all that would have made it the envy of the Western Hemisphere today.
So, the next time he decides to view poor black people through myopic lenses, and call their country shitholes, he would do well remembering that the historical contributions of their ancestors are invaluable; and no amount of money could have bought them freedom – freedom which was denied for him to enjoy today.
For poor black people and shitholes across the world ❤