The Haiti Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham.

AuthorCooper, Thomas R., Jr.

Dubois, Laurent, Kaiama L. Glover, Nadeve Menard, Millery Polyne, and Chantalle R Verna, eds. The Haiti Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020.

The Haiti Reader: History, Culture, Politics is part of Duke University Press's successful Latin American Readers series. The editors are distinguished scholars who have devoted most of their academic careers to Haitian studies. They are joined by contributing editors who developed the introductions and translations. Passages in the book recount Haiti's history through its political, economic, literary, religious, and musical cultures. These works range across poetry, fiction, political essays, statutes and decrees, popular songs, folk tales, and paintings. The book opens with the creation of the Haitian state in 1804 and closes with the 2010 earthquake.

The book is divided into eight relatively chronological chapters. The first chapter, "Foundations," touches on prerevolutionary Haiti and concentrates on the personalities of the early leaders, such as Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe, and the economic problems Haiti faced until about 1820 in achieving prerevolutionary levels of agricultural production, after the abolition of slavery. These leaders adopted systems of "post-emancipation forced labor" to tie the workers to their plantations (36). Two of the main themes in the second chapter, "The Second Generation," are the consequences of the agreement to pay a large indemnity to France for recognition and Dominican independence from Haiti in 1844, following the overthrow of Jean-Pierre Boyer. The chapter also highlights the national anthem, "La Dessalinienne," and other songs that were popularized in this period. An interesting sidenote, it is revealed that Jamaican American singer Harry Belafonte transformed the Haitian favorite, "Choucoune," written by Oswald Durand, into the hit song "Yellow Bird." The third chapter, "The Birth of Modern-Day Haiti," shows Haiti dealing with issues of the modern world, such as foreign control of economic and political life, color dynamics and gender relations, and the battles between the intellectuals and the military. Alternatively, several popular Haitian songs show the spirit of the people. The fourth chapter, "Occupied Haiti," describes Haitians' reactions to the US military occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Protests and resistance were reinforced by works of art, music, and literature that helped to...

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