Teaching About Haiti

Poster by Ricardo Levins Morales

All too often in the midst of the reporting on the tragedy in Haiti, we hear that the country is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere without the infrastructure to deal with the disaster. But little explanation is provided as to why, leaving students to assume it must be the fault of the people there. Nor do we hear of the strong grassroots Haitian organizations.

While students should be encouraged to contribute to relief efforts, it is also important to gain a deeper understanding of the history and the roots of the poverty in Haiti. The U.S has been involved with Haiti for centuries, yet it has received little attention in textbooks or the curriculum. Part of our commitment to the people of Haiti at this time can be to not only increase our support but also our awareness. As informed citizens, we can advocate for respectful and constructive relations with Haiti in the months and years ahead.

Black History Month provides a key opportunity to launch this study. Haiti was the only nation in the western hemisphere to end slavery when it declared independence — therefore the only nation to ensure true independence for all people.

Just as the study of Black History should be year round, so can our study of Haiti. For example, Professor Madison Smartt Bell suggests that “The Haitian Revolution, though seldom studied in proper detail outside Haiti, ought to be found near the center of any basic curriculum of American History.”

 

Click image to download entire booklet as a PDF (11MB).

Teaching About Haiti Booklet – PDF

To assist in bringing this history to the classroom, we have posted Teaching About Haiti online. This 43-page booklet (PDF), last reprinted in 1994, can be downloaded and reproduced at no cost. While some of the statistics are dated, the history, songs, oral histories, and literature are very useful for students in elementary, middle and high schools. The document can be downloaded in sections as listed below:

Pages Chapter
1-4 Cover, Credits and Introduction Download PDF
5, 7-12 Haiti’s History, Part I Download PDF
12-16 Haiti’s History, Part II Download PDF
6 Map Download PDF
17-18 Studying the Media Download PDF
19-20 Roots of Poverty Download PDF
21-23 Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Roots of Democracy Download PDF
24-32 Haitian Voices Download PDF
33-37 Literature: The Konbit, Poetry, Folktales Download PDF
38-39 Vodou Download PDF
40-42 Songs of Resistance Download PDF
Back Cover Proverbs Download PDF

Teaching About Haiti updates and additions

 

Below is a list of recommended news sources, articles, books, teaching guides, films, and organizations.

News

Democracy Now! Headline stories are also available in Spanish.
Interpress Service News Agency: Focus on Haiti

Articles

  • Economic Justice in Haiti Requires Debt Restitutionby Anthony Phillips and Brian Concannon Jr. An accessible, short history of the economics of Haiti with a focus on the debt to France for independence.
  • Globalization: A View from Below by Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A powerful essay on the devastating impact of globalization with the example of Haiti. Aristide describes the “crisis of imagination so profound that the only measure of value is profit, the only measure of human progress is economic growth.” Reprinted from Rethinking Globalization (Rethinking Schools).
  • Haiti Numbers: 27 Days After Quake by Bill Quigley. Recommended by Rethinking Schools for math lessons to surface issues of equity in the quake’s aftermath. Let us know if you and how you use this data.
  • The White Curse by Eduardo Galeano. A short essay on Haiti’s history by noted Uruguayan author. From The Progressive magazine, 2004.

 

Books

Elementary

Danticat, Edwidge. (2010).  Eight Days: A Story of Haiti. Award winning author Edwidge Danticat introduces young readers to the horrors of the earthquake and the beauty of Haiti through the recollections of a young boy who is trapped for 8 days in his collapsed house. Illustrations by Alix Delinois. Orchard Books.
Lauture, Denize  and Reynold Ruffins. (2000). Running the Road to ABC. Six children run to school through the countryside and city, introducing readers to the scenery of Haiti through vivid illustrations. Alladin.
Myers, Walter Dean and Jacob Lawrence. (1996). Toussaint L’Ouverture: The Fight for Haiti’s Freedom (Out of print). A biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture who led the fight for freedom in Haiti – told in prose and with striking paintings by Jacob Lawrence. The book is out of print, but worth looking for.
Watson, Jesse Joshua. (2010). Hope for Haiti. This beautifully illustrated story describes an incident in the life of a young boy who lives with his mother in a tent in a local soccer stadium after the devastating earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince. Surrounded by others hundreds of families struggling to rebuild their lives, he finds a young girl playing soccer with a ball made of rags. As he and other children join the game, they are transported to a world where they no longer see desolation and sadness but now hope and possibilities fill the air. The game of soccer becomes a powerful link between Haiti’s devastation of the past and optimism for the future. This is one of the best books we have seen for describing life in Haiti after the earthquake to young children. The illustrations are affirming and the story both honest and engaging. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Williams, Karen Lynn.Circles of Hope (2005). A young boy plants a tree in honor of his sister in the face of many challenges, introducing children to the environmental challenges caused by deforestation and community efforts to replant. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Youme. Selavi, That Is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope. (2004). Based on the true story of homeless children in Port-au-Prince who look out for one another, sharing food and companionship. Together they built a shelter and ran Radyo Timoun Children’s Radio. Teaching Guide. Cinco Puntos Press.

 

Upper Elementary and Middle School

Arthur, Charles. (2002). Haiti in Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture (Out of print). This 100-page book explores the land, history and politics, economy, society, people, culture and environment, and includes travel advice. The author is the coordinator of the London-based Haiti Support Group. “For book that fits comfortably and lightly in a backpack, Arthur provides a newcomer with sufficient information to get a start, and to have enough facts at hand to begin questions to old hands.” — LeGrace Benson, Journal of Haitian Studies. Interlink Publishing Group.
Cobblestone Publishing. (2000). Toussaint L’Ouverture and Haiti (Out of print). This 48-page Footsteps booklet was written for students ages 9-14.
Danticat, Edwidge. (2004). Behind the Mountains. Written in diary format, this middle school chapter book describes life in Haiti in the early 1990s through the eyes of a young girl, Celiane. Drawing from her own experiences, award-winning author Edwidge Danticat introduces the reader to life in rural and urban Haiti, the political conflicts, history, and the immigrant experience. The first half of this easy-to-read book is set in Haiti where Celiane does well in school, cherishes monthly cassette tape messages from her father, and is injured in bomb explosion on a bus while visiting family in Port-au-Prince. The other half describes her move to New York where she feels lost in her first days at school, watches relations deteriorate between her older brother and parents, and misses her homeland. Scholastic.
Danticat, Edwidge. (2005). Anacaona, Golden Flower (Out of print). The story of the Taino Queen Anacaona, the revolt against the Europeans and her tragic fate. Scholastic.
Temple, Frances. (1992). Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti. This powerful novel for upper elementary and middle school students is set shortly after the election of Aristide. It tells the story of two 17-year-olds caught up in Haiti’s struggle for democracy. HarperTrophy.
Temple, Frances. (1996) Tonight, by Sea. A chapter book about a young girl’s experiences in Haiti after the ouster of Aristide. Provides insights into community organizing and the reasons some people have to flee the island. HarperCollins.
Vincent, Dana. (Ed.) (2010).  Haiti on My Mind: Stories by Haitian-American Teens. A moving collection from Youth Communications of short essays written by Haitian-Americans about coming to the United States, memories of home, family, school, and more. Includes a foreword by award-winning author Edwidge Danticat and two essays she wrote as a teen member of Youth Communications. This collection makes it possible to bring Haitian voices to the classroom for middle and high school students and is designed to dispel many of the stereotypes about Haiti.
Wolkstein, D. (1980). The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales. Folk tales for all ages. Alfred Knopf.
 No image available. Yoder, C. (Ed.) (1992). Faces: Special Issue on Haiti. History, art  and culture. Out of print, however might still be in some school libraries. Cobblestone.

 

High School/Adult – Fiction

Chancy, Myriam J. A. (1997). Framing the Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women. A critical analysis of literature by Haitian and Haitian American authors. Useful background for English professors. Rutgers University Press.
Chancy, Myriam J. A. (2010). The Loneliness of Angels. Told through multiple voices in a non-linear fashion, this novel offers a nuanced portrayal of the role of spirituality in Caribbean life and culture. The author is donating all book royalties to Haiti relief funds. Peepal Tree Press.
Danticat, Edwidge. (1998). Breath, Eyes, Memory. This engaging story chronicles a young woman’s return to Haiti and her powerful journey through her country’s history, culture, and traditions. Vintage.
Danticat, Edwidge. (1996). Krik? Krak! A collection of nine stories about life under the Duvalier dictatorship. National Book Award Finalist. Vintage.
Endore, Guy. Babouk. Novel about the slave revolution. Foreword by Jamaica Kincaid. Monthly Review.
Laraque, Paul and more. (Editor). (2001). Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry. This collection focuses on contemporary Creole poetry that reflects the struggle for human rights in Haiti. The book is divided into three sections: Pioneers of Modern Haitian Creole poetry, beginning with the founder of modern Haitian Creole literature, Felix Morisseu-Leroy (1913-1998); the flowering of Haitian poetry as represented by the Society of Butterflies literary movement, some of whose members were jailed or exiled by the Duvalier dictatorship; and the New Generation, contemporary poets in the Diaspora. Curbstone Press.
Roumain, Jacques. (1944). Masters of the Dew (Out of print). A classic Haitian novel. Heinemann.
  Vieux-Chauvet, Marie. (2009). Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy. Modern Library.

High School/Adult – Non-Fiction

Aristide, Jean-Bertrand (1990). In the Parish of the Poor: Writings from Haiti. Essays by Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Orbis Books.
Bell, Beverly. (2001). Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance. Oral histories of 38 Haitian women from all walks of life. “An antidote to cynicism, the book not only introduces American readers to an array of courageous role models but also proves that change is possible.” — Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY. Cornell University Press.
Danticat, Edwidge. (2007). Brother, I’m Dying. The true story of how the author’s family was separated for decades by the decision of some to stay and others to leave Haiti; and how her uncle died while detained by US customs in Miami. Vintage.
Danticat, Edwidge. (Editor.) (2003). The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States. In this collection of 33 essays and poems, the experience of the Haitian emigre is described, with the works divided into four sections: childhood, migration, first generation, and return. Each author hauntingly describes their lives in Haiti and the United States. Soho Press.
Farmer, Paul. (1994). The Uses of Haiti. The history of Haiti, the popular movement, life stories of three Haitians and an analysis of commonly held myths about Haiti. Beautifully written. Common Courage.
Hurston, Zora Neale. (1938). Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. Republished in 2008, this is the report by noted anthropologist and writer Zora Neale Hurston on her participatory research in the 1930s. Harper Perennial.
Jackson, Maurice and Jacqueline Bacon (Editors). (2009). African Americans and the Haitian Revolution: Selected Essays and Historical Documents. This collection of  essays and primary sources provides historical texts by African Americans about the Haitian Revolution, and also offers insight into Haiti’s place in the African-American consciousness. Routledge.
James, C.L.R. (1989). 2nd ed. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. Classic account of the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1803. Random House.
Kidder, Tracy. (2004). Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. Random House Trade Paperbacks.
Metraux, A. (1959). Voodoo in Haiti. An authoritative analysis by a respected scholar. Schocken Books
Olson, Ruth Anne. (2010). Images of Haiti: Stories of Strength. Portraits and profiles of 10 Haitian men and women as they themselves tell their life stories. These include hardships but also the strength of people who daily overcome enormous obstacles to feed their families, plant trees, rebuild homes and gardens destroyed by hurricanes, and gather joyfully in a spirit of pride and community. Produced by Syracuse Cultural Workers. Also see poster set below.
Ridgeway, James. (Ed.) (1994). The Haiti Files: Decoding the Crisis. Drawing together reports, original documents, secret memos, and testimony, this book addresses the current crisis in Haiti and places it in the context of the long-standing U.S. role in Haiti’s political and economic life. Essential Books/Azul Editions. [Out of print.]
Robinson, Randall. (2008). An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. The first few chapters provide a profound yet easy to read (about 8th grade and up) history including why the slave revolution was successful in Haiti and not elsewhere. Basic Civitas Books.
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. (1990). Haiti: State Against Nation. Examines the origins of the repressive Haitian state and the mechanisms through which the Duvaliers held power. Monthly Review Press.
  Wilentz, Amy. (1989). Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier. Reads like a historical novel. Great background for teachers, excerpts can be used with students. Touchstone/Simon and Schuster.

 

Teaching Guides and Posters

Bigelow, Bill and Bob Peterson. Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years. The European arrival in the Americas – which started on the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) – is one key place to include Haiti in the curriculum. More than 90 essays, poems, interviews, historical vignettes, and lesson plans reevaluate the myth of Columbus and issues of indigenous rights. Rethinking Schools.
Bigelow, Bill and Bob Peterson. Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World. A collection of background readings on critical global issues and interactive lessons for grades 4-12. Many of the lessons can be used to introduce the global economic policies and practices which have contributed to the current political and economic conditions in Haiti. Rethinking Schools.
 Callin, Anne, Ruth Glasser and Jocelyn Santana. Caribbean Connections:The Dominican Republic. An incredible, informative collection of essays, oral histories, poetry, fiction, analysis, interviews, primary documents, beautifully illustrated timelines, maps and interactive & interdisciplinary teaching aids on the history, politics, and culture of the fourth largest Latino community in the United States. Authors include Julia Alvarez, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz, Rhina P. Espaillat, Pedro Mir, Josefina Baez and Sherezada Vicioso (Chiqui). The readings are organized into the following sections: Geography, History, Economy; Migration and the Dominican Diaspora; Shaping A Dominican Identity: Language, Race, and Gender; Haitian-Dominican Relations; The National Goes Global: Dominican Music and Baseball. Ideal as background text for students or book groups reading literature by Dominican authors, communities with Dominican-American students, and for everyone interested in this Caribbean country with its rather long history of U.S. involvement.
Sunshine, Catherine and Keith Q. Warner (Editors). (2005). Caribbean Connections: Moving North. Introduces students to Caribbean life in the United States through oral histories, literature and essays. Moving North features the essays, poetry and interviews that can be used to introduce the Haitian-American experience to middle and high school classrooms. Teaching for Change.
Sunshine, Catherine. (1991). Caribbean Connections: Overview of Regional History. Collection of fiction, non-fiction, interviews, and poetry on the Caribbean, including Haiti. EPICA and Teaching for Change.
Images of Haiti Posters – Set of 10. In English or Haitian-Creole. These posters introduce students to the lives of 10 Haitians through image and text. Also available in book format. Proceeds from sale to Partners in Health. Produced by Syracuse Cultural Workers with St. James Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

Films

The Agronomist. (2003). A profile of Haitian radio journalist and human rights activist, Jean Dominique. Dominique ran Haiti’s first independent radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter. The documentary includes historical footage and interviews with Dominique and his wife Michele Montas. Best suited as background viewing for teachers. Directed by Jonathan Demme. 90 min.
Bittercane Bitter Cane (1983). Award winning documentary of Haitian history from 1804 through early 1980s. Bitter Cane is a look at the history of Haiti, from the sugar barons to the exploitation of the US-owned assembly factories. Filmed clandestinely under the Duvalier dictatorship, this timeless award-winning documentary profiles Haiti’s neo-colonial economy and features archival footage of the first US occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934. From peasant coffee farms in the rugged tropical mountains to steamy U.S.-owned sweatshops in the teeming capital, the film takes the viewer on a journey through Haitian history to a deeper understanding of that country’s political economy. 71 min.
Black Dawn. Award-winning animated film tells the story of Haiti’s revolutionary past through paintings of Haitian artists. In French, Creole or English. 20 min.
Haiti: Killing the Dream (1992). Powerful documentary on the history and coup that ousted President Aristide. Interviews with President Aristide, clergy, cross section of Haitian people, military junta, U.S. State Department and more. A Growing Rooster Production, presented by Jonathan Demme, Edward Saxon and Harry Belafonte. Democracy Now! shared an online excerpt from the film outlining Haiti’s history, introduced by Danny Glover. 60 min.
Haitian Pilgrimage. Traces journey of a Haitian-American family from Boston back to its roots in Haiti. Includes glimpses of a Vodou ritual, interviews with President Aristide, and more. Critiques myths about Vodou. 27 min.
Makonen Fos Nou/Weaving Our Strengthis an 18-minute online (You Tube) video, produced by the Lambi Fund of Haiti, about grassroots economic development projects. A running narrative by Josette Perard, Haiti Director of the Lambi Fund, sets the projects in a larger context. (The film is posted on You Tube in 2 parts.)
Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy. (2009). Told through the lives of five Haitian women, Poto Mitan gives an inside perspective on globalization, Haiti’s current crisis, and the resilient women challenging this system. Narration by Edwidge Danticat. Tèt Ansanm Productions with Renegade Pictures, Inc. and UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Black Studies Research. 50 minutes.

 

Organizations

Haiti Support Group. The Haiti Support Group (HSG), based in London (UK), is a solidarity organisation working with progressive organizations in Haiti that are trying to carry out the fundamental structural changes necessary to improve the standard of living of the majority, to build participatory democracy, and to ensure respect for all human rights.
Lambi Fund supports community-based projects that promote grassroots economic development, primarily in rural, agricultural areas. The fund also emphasizes environmental sustainability, including reforestation in all projects, and promotes the overall democratic movement. See the online film Weaving Our Strengthabout the work of the Lambi Fund in Haiti.
Mouvman Peyizan Papay: Education and Development Fund (recent posts primarily in French) is Haiti’s largest grassroots organization, and also its most successful in addressing the problems of food production, land protection and viable peasant cooperatives. Founded in 1973.
Partners in Healthhas been working on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. PIH works to bring modern medical care to poor communities in nine countries around the world. The work of PIH has three goals: to care for patients, to alleviate the root causes of disease in their communities, and to share lessons learned around the world.
TransAfrica serves as an educational and organizing center that encourages progressive viewpoints in the US foreign policy arena and advocates justice for the people of Africa and the African Diaspora.

 


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