Key Dates in Haiti’s History


Christopher Columbus lands and claims the island of Hispaniola for Spain. The Spanish build the New World’s first settlement at La Navidad on Haiti’s north coast.


Spanish control over the colony ends with the Treaty of Ryswick, which divided the island into French-controlled St. Domingue and Spanish Santo Domingo.

For over 100 years the colony of St. Domingue (known as the Pearl of the Antilles) was France’s most important overseas territory, which supplied it with sugar, rum, coffee, cotton, indigo, exotic wood and lumber. At the height of slavery, near the end of the 18th century, some 500,000 people, mainly of western African origin, were enslaved by the French.


A slave rebellion is launched by the Jamaican-born Boukman leading to a protracted 13-year war of liberation against St. Domingue’s colonists and later, Napoleon’s army which was also assisted by Spanish and British forces. The slave armies were commanded by General Toussaint Louverture who was eventually betrayed by the French and subsequently exiled to France where he died.


The Haitian blue and red flag was devised at Arcahaie, by taking the French tricolor, turning it clockwise and removing the white band. The Battle of Vertières in November marks the ultimate victory of the former slaves over the French.


The hemispere’s second Republic is declared on January 1, 1804 by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Haiti, or Ayiti in Creole, is the name given to the land by the former Taino-Arawak people, meaning “mountainous country.”


Emperor Jean-Jacques Dessalines is assassinated.


Civil war racks the country, which divides into the northern kingdom of Henri Christophe and the southern republic governed by Alexandre Pétion. Faced with a rebellion by his own army, Christophe commits suicide, paving the way for Jean-Pierre Boyer to reunify the country and become President of the entire republic in 1820.


President Boyer invades Santo Domingo following its declaration of independence from Spain. The entire island is now controlled by Haiti until 1844.


France recognizes Haitian independence in exchange for a financial indemnity of 150 million francs. Most nations including the United States shunned Haiti for almost forty years, fearful that its example could stir unrest there and in other slaveholding countries. Over the next few decades Haiti is forced to take out loans of 70 million francs to repay the indemnity and gain international recognition.


The United States finally grants Haiti diplomatic recognition sending noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass as its Consular Minister.


President Woodrow Wilson orders the U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti and establish control over customs-houses and port authorities. The Haitian National Guard is created by the occupying Americans. The Marines force peasants into corvée labor building roads. Peasant resistance to the occupiers grows under the leadership of Charlemagne Péralte, who is betrayed and assassinated by Marines in 1919.


The U.S. withdraws from Haiti leaving the Haitian Armed Forces in place throughout the country.


Thousands of Haitians living near the border of the Dominican Republic are massacred by Dominican soldiers under the orders of President General Trujillo.


After several attempts to move forward democratically ultimately fail, military controlled elections lead to victory for Dr. François Duvalier, who in 1964 declares himself President-for-Life and forms the infamous paramilitary Tonton Makout. The corrupt Duvalier dictatorship marks one of the saddest chapters in Haitian history with tens of thousands killed or exiled.


“Papa-Doc” Duvalier dies in office after naming his 19 year-old son Jean-Claude as his successor.


The first Haitian “boat people” fleeing the country land in Florida.


Widespread protests against repression of the nation’s press take place.


“Baby-Doc” Duvalier exploits international assistance and seeks to attract investment leading to the establishment of textile-based assembly industries. Attempts by workers and political parties to organize are quickly and regularly crushed.


Hundreds of human rights workers, journalists and lawyers are arrested and exiled from the country.


International aid agencies declare Haitian pigs to be carriers of African Swine Fever and institute a program for their slaughter. Attempts to replace indigenous swine with imported breeds largely fail.


Pope John Paul II visits Haiti and declares publicly that, “Things must change here.”


Over 200 peasants are massacred at Jean-Rabel after demonstrating for access to land. The Haitian Bishops Conference launches a nation-wide (but short-lived) literacy program. Anti-government riots take place in all major towns.


Massive anti-Government demonstrations continue to take place around the country.  Four schoolchildren are shot dead by soldiers, an event which unifies popular protest against the régime.


Widespread protests against “Baby Doc” lead the U.S. to arrange for Duvalier and his family to be exiled to France. Army leader General Henri Namphy heads a new National Governing Council.


A new Constitution is overwhelmingly approved by the population in March. General elections in November are aborted hours after they begin with dozens of people shot by soldiers and the Tonton Makout in the capital and scores more around the country.


Military controlled elections – widely abstained from – result in the installation of Leslie Manigat as President in January. Manigat is ousted by General Namphy four months later and in November General Prosper Avril unseats Namphy.


President Avril, on a trade mission to Taiwan, returns empty-handed after grassroots-based democratic sectors inform Taiwanese authorities that the Haitian nation will not be responsible for any contracts agreed to by Avril. Avril orders massive repression against political parties, unions, students and democratic organizations.


Avril declares a state of siege in January. Rising protests and urging from the American Ambassador convince Avril to resign. A Council of State forms out of negotiations among democratic sectors, charged with running a Provisional Government led by Supreme Court Justice Ertha Pascal-Trouillot.

U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle visits Haiti and tells Army leaders, “No more coups.” Assistance is sought from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations (UN) to help organize general elections in December.

In a campaign marred by occasional violence and death, democratic elections finally take place on December 16, 1990. Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a parish priest, well known throughout the country for his support of the poor, is elected President with 67.5% of the popular vote. The “U.S. favorite” Marc Bazin finishes a distant second with 14.2%


Duvalierist holdover and Tonton Makout Dr. Roger Lafontant attempts a coup d’état to prevent Father Aristide’s ascension to power. The Armed Forces quickly remove him from the National Palace following massive popular protest.

President Aristide is inaugurated on February 7th, five years after Duvalier’s fall from power. A Government is formed by Prime Minister René Préval promising to uproot the corruption of the past. Over $500 million is promised in aid by the international community.

In September President Aristide addresses the UN General Assembly. Three days after his return military personnel with financial backing from neo-Duvalierist sectors and their international allies unleash a coup d’état, ousting President Aristide. Over 1,000 people are killed in the first days of the coup.

The OAS calls for a hemisphere-wide embargo against the coup régime in support of the deposed constitutional authorities.


Negotiations between the Washington, D.C. based exiled Government, Haiti’s Parliament and representatives of the coup régime headed by General Raoul Cédras lead to the Washington Protocol, which is ultimately scuttled by the coup régime.

U.S. President George Bush exempts U.S. factories from the embargo and orders U.S. Coast Guard to interdict all Haitians leaving the island in boats and to return them to Haiti.

The OAS embargo fails as goods continue to be smuggled through neighboring Dominican Republic. Haiti’s legitimate authorities ask the United Nations to support a larger embargo in order to press the coup leaders to step down. The UN pledges to support efforts by the OAS to find a solution to the political crisis.


President Aristide asks the Secretaries-General of the OAS and the UN for the deployment by the United Nations and OAS of an international civilian mission to monitor respect for human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence.

In June Haiti requests an oil and arms embargo from the UN Security Council in order to pressure the coup régime to give up power.

In July, President Aristide and General Raoul Cédras sign the Governors Island Accord, which inter alia called for the early retirement of Gen. Cédras, the formation and training of a new civilian police force, and the return of the President on October 30, 1993. Representatives of political parties and Parliament sign the New York Pact pledging support for President Aristide’s return and the rebuilding of the nation.

A contingent of U.S. and Canadian trainers aboard the U.S.S. Harlan County arrives in Haitian waters in October and is recalled because of right-wing demonstrations, setting back the Governors Island agreement. General Cédras refuses to step down as promised.

President Aristide’s Justice Minister Guy Malary, responsible for the formation of a civilian police force is shot dead in Port-au-Prince weeks after local businessman and Aristide supporter Antoine Izmery is executed outside of a local church.

The UN calls for “strict implementation” of the embargo against the de facto authorities. The Civilian Mission’s human rights observers are allowed to return in small numbers.


In May additional sanctions were levied against the régime through a naval blockade supported by Argentine, Canadian, French, Dutch and U.S. warships.

Tensions increase as human rights violations continue. The Civilian Mission is told by the de facto authorities to leave the country.

The UN Security Council passes Resolution 940 authorizing the Member States to form a 6,000 multinational force and “to use all necessary means” to facilitate the departure of the military régime.

On September 15th, U.S. President Clinton declares that all diplomatic initiatives were exhausted and that the US with 20 other countries would form a multinational force. On September 19th these troops land in Haiti after the coup leaders agree to step down and leave the country.

On October 15th, President Aristide and his Government-in-exile return to Haiti.


In June Haiti hosts the annual OAS General Assembly at Montrouis.

Legislative elections take place that month and in December the presidential contest is won by former Prime Minister René Préval. (President Aristide is precluded by the Constitution from succeeding himself).

In November Prime Minister Smarck Michel steps down and Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh becomes President Aristide’s fourth Prime Minister.


President Préval is inaugurated in February. A Government is formed under Prime Minister Rosny Smarth. Agricultural production, administrative reform, and economic modernization are announced as the Goverment’s priorities.


Municipal and legislative elections end in disarray because of a flawed vote count, alleged irregularities and fraud charges. The controversy triggers a boycott of the presidential elections later that year, won by Aristide.


The crisis sparked by the allegedly fraudulent election deepens amid a failure of international mediation efforts, a floundering economy and growing political violence.  A few weeks after the nation celebrates its 200th anniversary in January, a rebel movement seizes control of a number of towns in an uprising that leads to the resignation of Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004 and his exile to the Central African Republic.

Boniface Alexandre, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, assumed interim authority as acting President until the February 2006 elections.


René Préval, former President of the Republic of Haiti between 1995 and 2000, wins the 2006 presidential elections.


On April 12, the Government of Prime Minister, Jacques Edouard Alexis, received a vote of no confidence from Parliament and resigned. The resignation follows increased popular discontent over the government’s economic policy and riots again the rising price of food commodities.

On July 18, Michèle Pierre-Louis’ nomination as Prime Minister was accepted by Parliament. She is the second female Prime Minister is Haiti’s history.