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.
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 US has been involved with Haiti for centuries, yet it has received little attention in textbooks or the curriculum. As informed citizens, we can advocate for respectful and constructive relations with Haiti in the months and years ahead.
Please visit the Teaching for Change site for more resources to teach about Haiti.
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."