EDUCATION IN HAITI (1930)

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ABSTRACT

Few Latin-American countries have been more cursed with “chronic wrongdoing and impotence” than the Republic
of Haiti prior to 1915. Heredity-mongers interested in proving the Negro’s inherent incapacity for self-government,
historians desirous of justifying the American intervention, the American government itself, and even Haitian
patriots have all dilated upon the opera-bo1ffe which ran almost interminably during the period of independence. In
support of this view Mr. H. P. Davis, the latest American historian of the “Black Democracy”, uses the following
typical language: “In one hundred eight years, 1807-1915 twenty-four executives held office. Seventeen of the twenty-four were deposed by revolutions, two of whom were murdered. Five of the twenty-four died in office, one at least by poison, one in the explosion of his palace, one on the eve of his overthrow by revolutionists. Two only of the twenty-four were allowed to retire peaceably from office; eleven of the twenty-four served for less than one year each. The six predecessors of President Dartiguenave averaged a little more than eight months each. Eight only succeeded in maintaining themselves in office during the period of their elected terms.”‘
These are facts, undeniable facts, whatever may be the extenuating circumstances invoked, the comparisons drawn.
Differences of opinion arise only when the reasons for them are sought. Is this instability reducible to a simple statement
that the Negro is not capable of self-government? Is it to be explained on the other hand in terms of the struggles
made by other young nations in their efforts to establish a stable government? These questions might, of course, provoke
a lengthy discussion of “race”, heredity, innate qualities, and environment.

Few Latin-American countries have been more cursed with “chronic wrongdoing and impotence” than the Republic of Haiti prior to 1915. Heredity-mongers interested in proving the Negro’s inherent incapacity for self-government, historians desirous of justifying the American intervention, the American government itself, and even Haitian patriots have all dilated upon the opera-bo1ffe which ran almost interminably during the period of independence. In support of this view Mr. H. P. Davis, the latest American historian of the “Black Democracy”, uses the following typical language:

“In one hundred eight years, 1807-1915 twenty-four executives held office. Seventeen of the twenty-four were deposed by revolutions, two of whom were murdered. Five of the twenty-four died in office, one at least by poison, one in the explosion of his palace, one on the eve of his overthrow by revolutionists. Two only of the twenty-four were allowed to retire peaceably from office; eleven of the twenty-four served for less than one year each. The six predecessors of President Dartiguenave averaged a little more than eight months each. Eight only succeeded in maintaining themselves in office during the period of their elected terms.”

These are facts, undeniable facts, whatever may be the extenuating circumstances invoked, the comparisons drawn. Differences of opinion arise only when the reasons for them are sought. Is this instability reducible to a simple statement that the Negro is not capable of self-government? Is it to be explained on the other hand in terms of the struggles made by other young nations in their efforts to establish a stable government? These questions might, of course, provoke a lengthy discussion of “race”, heredity, innate qualities, and environment. That, however, is not the purpose
of this paper. It seeks to show first, that the colonial history of Haiti was not conducive to the development of a system of education and that the revolution created even more difficulties for the establishment of such a system; second, that with the best intentions in the world the Haitians never developed an adequate system of education; third, that the system evolved was one of the primary factors in the revolutionary course of the country’s history. The remaining part of the paper will attempt to evaluate the program by which the American Occupation is endeavoring to promote stability through education.

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