Set mostly in the island nation of Haiti, Krik? Krak! is heavily influenced by the tumultuous political and social history of the small Caribbean republic. Some events of Haiti’s history are only subliminally alluded to, while others, like the massacre of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, are explicitly referenced. Not only does Haiti’s history deeply impact the events of the book, it also affects the lives and decisions of Krik? Krak!’s characters. Therefore, a general knowledge of Haitian history would greatly increase a reader’s understanding and overall appreciation of the work. To that end, a timeline of key events in Haitian history is provided below.
1492—Christopher Columbus discovers the island of Hispaniola, which present-day Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. He founds the first Spanish community near Cap-Haïtien, on the north coast of Haiti.
1503—The first African slaves are brought to Hispaniola for forced labor.
1665—French settlers found Port-au-Prince on the northwest coast of Hispaniola. The French name their half of the island “Saint-Dominique” and authorize the slave trade within it.
1751—François Mackandal, a Haitian Maroon leader in Saint-Dominique, leads slave rebellions in the northern part of the country. Mackandal is later captured and executed in 1758.
1791—The Haitian Revolution for emancipation begins in earnest. Dutty Boukman, a slave who became a leader in the revolution, and Cécile Fatiman, a Vodou priestess, lead a Vodou ceremony where hundreds of slaves pledge to fight for freedom. A few days after the ceremony, a force of slaves defeats European soldiers near Port-au-Prince.
1794—France abolishes slavery in all French colonies, including Haiti. However, by this time both Spain and Britain have gotten involved in the revolution, thus complicating the situation.
1802—Napoleon Bonaparte sends a French force to Haiti in an attempt to restore French rule. Haitian military general Toussaint Loverture leads the Haitian resistance against the French but is defeated and captured. His lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, assumes leadership of the rebel forces.
1803—At the Battle of Vertiéres, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution, Haitian forces defeat the French. The Europeans surrender at Môle Saint-Nicolas, effectively ending French rule on the island. Also during this year the flag of Haiti is created and sewn by Catherine Fion.
1804—Dessalines declares Haiti an independent nation and names himself Governor-General. He also orders the massacre of any remaining white French people and French-Creoles. White deserters from the French army are spared, along with a group of doctors and professionals.
1806—Dessalines is assassinated and Henri Christophe is appointed president for four years.
1807—Haiti is divided into the northern State of Haiti and the southern Republic of Haiti. Each country has its own government and president, with Christophe president of the state and Alexandre Pétion president of the republic.
1820—Following the suicide of Henri Christophe, Haiti is reunited under Jean-Pierre Boyer, the then-president of the republic.
1825—In exchange for recognizing Haiti’s independence, King Charles X of France imposes a 150 million franc (today, 40 billion US dollars) indemnity on the Haitian government. This amount is later reduced to 90 million franc, which the Haitians finish paying in 1879.
1843-1878—Haiti experiences a period of immense political disarray and upheaval. It sees 10 different presidencies and 1 monarchy. Also during this time the United States recognizes Haiti as a sovereign state and the Dominican Republic declares its independence from Haiti.
1879—Lysius Salomon is elected as President of Haiti. He institutes many reforms and pays off Haiti’s remaining debt to France.
1904—Haiti celebrates 100 years of independence.
1915—The United States’ 19 year-occupation of Haiti begins with the arrival of 3,000 U.S. Marines in Port-au-Prince.
1929—Haiti and the Dominican Republic sign a treaty establishing the border between the two countries.
1934—The last US forces withdraw from Haiti, ending the US occupation.
1937—The Dominican armed forces, under the orders of Dominican President Rafael Trujillo, massacre between 20-35 thousand Haitian people living in the Dominican Republic.
1957—Dr. François “Papa Doc” Duvalier is elected President of Haiti. He runs on a populist and Black Nationalist platform and uses his rural militia, the Tonton Macoute, to defend his rule. During his regime 30-60 thousand Haitians were murdered, and many more fled to the United States.
1964—President Duvalier is named President for Life of Haiti.
1971—The National Assembly of Haiti allows Duvalier to name his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, as his successor. Later this year Papa Doc dies and Baby Doc ascends to the presidency.
1986—Baby Doc flees Haiti and exiles himself in France.
1987—Voters are massacred at the presidential election to replace Baby Doc. The election is rescheduled, but approximately 96 percent of voters boycott it.
1990—Jean Bertrand Aristide, famous in Haiti for his support of the poor, becomes the first democratically elected President of Haiti with 68% of the popular vote.
1991—A military coup forces President Aristide into exile. Thousands of Haitians begin to flee the country again via boat. Those that are not sent back to Haiti by the US government settle in South Florida.
1994—The military government resigns at the behest of the U.S. government and Aristide returns as President.
2004—Haiti celebrates 200 years of independence. Former Haitian soldiers carry out guerilla attacks and capture the country’s 2nd largest city. Aristide resigns from office and flees from Haiti. Later he will claim that he was forced to resign by the U.S. government.
2006—René Preval is elected president in an election U.N. peacekeepers oversee.
2010—A 7.0 magnitude earthquake strikes Haiti, killing up to 316 thousands and leaving 1.6 million homeless. The country has yet to fully recover from the disaster.
2011—Michael Martelly is elected President of Haiti.
2016—President Martelly steps down as president. A provisional government led by Prime Minister Evans Paul is left in control of the country until an interim president is chosen.