++African Origins of Haitians++

Indigenous People
The name Haiti was indeed from the indigenous people who cultivated the land.  The name Haiti simply means “Land of the Mountain” because the island is surrounded by great landscapes and mountains. However, Columbus took it upon himself as well as the other colonial explorers to rename the island several times. One of the several names was Hispaniola because the land reminded Columbus of Spain. The French secondly called the island Saint-Domingue. The first peoples to arrive in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are believed to have come from the Yucatan peninsula or from other areas of Central America.  These individuals were known as the Karibe/Taino. Being as it may, after most of the indigenous people started to die from small pox and malaria, the colonials took the initiative on replacing them with Africans. The Africans who came from Africa into Haiti were mainly from the Bight of Benin. The Republic of Benin was known as part of the Dahomey kingdom. Dahomey was a powerful kingdom in the west part of Africa until it was taken over from 1894-1960 by the French. However, before the French took over completely the French were already buying slaves, trading for slaves and shipping them into the Caribbean to be used as slaves. Dahomey was organized for war, not only to expand its boundaries but also to take captives as slaves. Therefore, slavery was nothing new to the locals in the Dahomey kingdom. However, the treatment of slaves in the new world was very much different compared in Africa.



Most Africans as the famous Olaudah Equiano would write that “sometimes indeed, we sold slaves, but they were only prisoners of war, or such among us as had been convicted of kidnapping, or adultery, and some other crimes, which we esteemed heinous (pg42)”. This is too simply state, that most Africans brought to the new world were all of mix tribes. However, as most scholars would note, most Africans brought to Haiti were of the Yoruba people in Benin.  However, this is due to the Dahomey kingdom conquered territories; which were assimilated through intermarriage, uniform laws, and a common tradition of enmity to the Yoruba. The non-Yoruba Africans came from the Kongo and Angola, with most coming from the region in which the Kongo people resided. Be mindful that the Kongo and Angola people were also intermingle with the Yoruba people. In other words the Yoruba people were all over the west part of Africa. If anything, they were considered to be the largest group of people in the west parts of Africa.  Although, Haitian descendants come from the same continent, some of the Africans in Haiti were very much from different parts of Africa. Furthermore, mixing the different African tribes with each other, was a tactic used by the French as well as the other Europeans to keep African slaves from revolting or rebelling. For example, if all spoke the same language there would be a higher chance in communicating and revolting; as appose to those who spoke a different languages and possible conflicts already from being in different tribes, would create chaos which gave the European the advantages in control of the Africans.



However, out of this chaos come a people that did begin to understand each other. Religion played a major fact in gathering the Africans together in unison. One of the more popular religion was Vodun which represents a rich blending of numerous African religions, including the Fon, Yoruba, and BaKongo (pg.88). Vodun can be directly traced to the West African Yoruba people who lived in 18th and 19th century Dahomey. Its roots may go back years in Africa in parts today known as Togo, Benin and Nigeria. The Africans from these occupied places once shipped out of their own regions brought their religion with them once they reached the West Indies. Yoruba people were found throughout the Francophone Caribbean, including Louisiana and Trinidad, where French planters moved after the uprising in St. Domingue in the 1790s (pg45).  The Catholic belief was very much incorporated as well, because most slaves if not all were force to be baptized into Christianity. However, the Africans secretly merged their religious background with the catholic belief system. For example, there are a number of points of similarity between Roman Catholicism and Vodun. The Loa resemble Christian Saints, in that they were once people who led exceptional lives, and are usually given a single responsibility or special attribute and both believe in a supreme being.


Impact in US history

Haitians have played a part in the History of the United States. For example, Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable was the founder of Chicago. Although Chicago was not chartered as a city until 1837, its founding took place many years before when Du Sable opened his trading post beside the Chicago River. From this humble start came an important city, and Du Sable's life there in its early days is an important part of that heritage [o]. Another example is Henry Christophe whom participated in the American Revolutionary War in the French contingent. As a sergeant, he was among the 545 Haitian free Negroes known as the Fontages Legion. Fighting to make men in another country free from oppression created a thirst for freedom within Christophe [o]. Once Haiti gained its independence, Napoleon's plan collapsed, forcing French troops to return defeated to France and preventing them from reaching their ultimate destination, Louisiana — and from being able to defend it. As Napoleon's New World Empire disintegrated, the loss of Haiti made Louisiana unnecessary. In doing so, the French had decided to sell Louisiana to America for $11,250,000 and assumed claims of its own citizens against France up to $3,750,000, for a total purchase price of $15 million [o].


Roles of Men and Women influenced by African Culture, It is without a doubt that the African culture still exists in Haiti. Haitian women still have a strong family leadership in the family bond. As did their women ancestors, they still carry a strong foundation and are ready to protect the family by any circumstances. Their ancestral women were not only in charge of keeping a strong family bond but were also trained to go in combat in the case of war to protect the homeland. Therefore, Haitian women still hold the strength of the family bond even if it means till death. As for the men, they were warriors besides the normal farming life in Africa. The African ancestry of Haitian proves to show that the Dahomey people were known as great warriors in combat. This is shown throughout their abilities in overthrowing the French out of Haiti to claim their independence. In doing so, this shows not only that they were warriors but to have face the greatest general Napoleon army you had to have had some form of intelligence based on the art of war. Even before the 1791 battle, the Haitian's African ancestors prove their level of skills side to side with the Americans in Georgia Savannah defeating the British in a war that help gain America its own independence. Therefore, the Haitian men know their place as the ideal protectors of the whole family just like the women. We have noticed after the indigenous people died from multiple foreign diseases, the Africans who came through slavery have implemented their culture, religion and tradition in the island as we know today called Haiti. Although, most of the Africans who came to Haiti were forcefully treated like slaves in the beginning, they were able to keep their tradition throughout the centuries. In doing so, the people of Haiti being Haitian are very well aware of their cultural backgrounds and roots. Africa has influenced on many of the Haitian traditions including paintings, dance, music, food, the language Creole, and the spiritual belief system in the island we love to call Haiti.




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C.L.R James, The Black Jacobins  (New York: A Division of Random House,1989)

The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade (Duke University  Press, 2008) Pg 42

The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World (Indiana University, 2004) pg 45

Crossroads &Cosmologies: Diaspora and Ethnogenesis in the New World (University Press of Florida, 2007) pg 88

Rogozinski Jan, A Brief History of the Caribbean (First Plume Printing, 2000)


Online References







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#19 Jay 2014-09-11 13:22
I love this article!!! as a Haitian woman,It it always a good thing to learn more about out culture. the older I get, the more I am fascinated with out African culture
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#15 mahalya 2014-01-11 04:03
I like the info listed,however some very important key is missing as to say misleading the first group of African brought to Haiti were not by the French it was by Spain ,French did not starts slave trade not until the eighteen century
#14 Haiti360 2013-11-28 12:50
Thank you all for the positive comments!

— Haiti360
#13 Sean 2013-09-26 12:23
much needed information. thank you
#12 kc 2013-05-23 14:57
Quoting kc:
i wud like to kno more about my culture

tell me wat isnt obvious
#11 kc 2013-05-23 14:56
i wud like to kno more about my culture
#10 lashanda 2013-05-20 11:07
Quoting Desir:
A a Haitian American i've heard the negatives about my people. The history helps out a lot God Bless!!!!

there terrible

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