The Case for Haitian Reparations

Alcenat, Westenley
Date Written:  2017-01-14
Publisher:  Jacobin
Year Published:  2017
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20291

A history of France's exploitation of colonial Haiti, the aftermath of Haiti's independence, and the lasting social and environmental impacts, arguing for Haiti's recent demands of reparations from the French government.



Financial investment in the exploitation of black slaves resulted in a simple cruel logic: it was cheaper to work slaves to death and then import another boatload of men and women than to provide them with bare subsistence. Because of this, Saint-Domingue, as colonial Haiti was known, became the wealthiest European colony in the world. It produced much of the cotton, tobacco, indigo, and sugar that fattened the pockets of France’s wealthiest aristocrats.


In short, historians only need to follow the money to find one of the major culprits of Haitian underdevelopment, for which Haitian peasants paid dearly in taxes. For example, family-owned land parcels that had been a staple of post-independence Haiti were under constant pressures to be reorganized into plantations for commercial use. By the time of the American occupation, the recurring pressures to finance the debt by taxing the peasantry, devastated the Haitian countryside.

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