Democracy now! was a great show in response to Times’ series. As co-owner Juan Gonzalez notes, “much of it is new to people who haven’t paid attention.”
We take an in-depth look at The Ransom, a new series in The New York Times that details how France devastated Haiti’s economy, forcing Haiti to pay huge compensation for the loss of slave labor after enslaved Haitians revolted and established the world’s first black republic. 1804
We talk to historians Westenley Alkenat and Gerald Horn about the story of Haiti’s finances and how Haiti’s claims for reparations have been re-closed. Alcenat says the series “exposes the rest of the world to knowledge that has actually existed for more than a hundred years,” and while he welcomes the series, he demands that The New York Times apologize for its 2010 publication of journalist David. Brooks racist stereotypes in Haiti. .
Horns also demands that The New York Times make the disclosures cited in the series available to other historians. He says the series will “hopefully lead us to rethink the country’s history and move away from the point of propaganda that the United States was an abolitionist republic, when in fact it was the largest slave republic.”
Amy Goodman and Gonzalez had two very knowledgeable guests in the program: Dr. Westenley Alkenat and Dr. Gerald Horn.
(link to transcript)
For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Alcenat, he was born in Haiti and teaches the history of the United States, the Atlantic Ocean and the Afro-Caribbean at Fordham University in the Bronx. Here is a link to Dr. Alcenat 2021 North American Latin American Congress (NACLA) report.
Dr. Horn is a historian with an extensive bibliography, with more than 30 books published; Confrontation with Black Jacobins: The Revolution of the United States, Haiti and the Origin of the Dominican Republic must be read.
The Haitian revolution, the result of the first successful slave uprising, was truly a world historical influence. When Haiti declared independence in 1804, the leading powers – France, Britain and Spain – were shamefully defeated and the New World was transformed. The island’s revolution also had a profound effect on Haiti’s mainland neighbor, the United States. Inspiring the enslaved and emancipated partisans, while surprising the horrors of the entire Southern slavery, it took the new nations a step closer to civil war. Gerald Horn’s path to new work explores the complex and often complex relationship between the United States and the island of Hispaniola
Dr. Christie Thornton, an assistant professor in sociology and Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University, recorded the story on Twitter while watching times.
Dr. Tornton is not mistaken. A simple Google or Twitter search reveals pretty much the main story and documentary, Aristide and the Infinite Revolution which is described as a ‘A detailed account of how the United States overthrew Haiti’s democratically elected president. Aristid, Senator Maxina Waters, Noam Chomsky, Charles Rangel, [and] more.”
Daily Kos, July 30, 2013 Black Kos EditionCaribbean issues: time to turn to Haiti again and learn about the hidden history of the United States.
Five years later, Al Jazeera made another call to the function from 2021, stating that “Haiti is the first black republic, but it is now often described as’ poor ‘,’ dangerous’ and ‘unstable’ and asks: ‘What has contributed to Haiti’s plight? What is missing from this conversation?
Here is a reflection of The Guardian In 2010.
From another point of view, Dr. Peter James Hudson, UCLA’s Associate Professor of African American Studies and History, posted this Twitter thread, which I’ve compiled here for your convenience. He notes in the series that the story of the extortion in Haiti is being passed on to new audiences, while naming the conversations that he said would have inspired the “ransom” and lamenting some of them.
I am in a shameful situation because I have to defend the New York Times, a newspaper that I stopped reading regularly after 9/11, when they started publishing lifestyle articles justifying torture.
Since then, they have hidden every U.S. military adventure, and of course their portrayal of Haiti has traditionally been terrible, reactionary and racist.
To give just one example, their Current History supplement published in 1930 the work of the racist city banker John H. Allen, “A View from the Revolutions in Haiti.”
In an article commemorating the beginning of the US occupation of Haiti, Allen gives us a typical view of Haiti’s apparent atavism and backwardness and attributes the unfortunate line to William Jenning Brian: “Dear me, Negroes who speak French!”
Yes, of course, their quoting practice has been awful. When a NYT reporter wrote a story about U.S. intervention and the occupation of Haiti, it seemed to be borrowed from an article on the subject that Jim Pierre and I had just published in The Black Agenda Report.
However, while the allegations in their series about Haiti’s debt “news” are exaggerated, they are not completely false. Jonathan Kats has outlined what is new, so I will not test his analysis.
I would add, however, that what is new and important in the series is the connection of the history of debt over a period of time that has been fragmented by many historians. The 19th century is rarely associated with the years of occupation, the years of occupation with the Duvalier era, and so on.
This synthetic but subtle approach is important, especially as it allows us to make political and economic claims about the present. We make a big deal, following the money, they have done it.
About a year ago, I was approached by two of the writers and they had several conversations. I was more than willing to share what I could because I thought what they were doing was important precisely because it was NYT.
For many years, I have been published in Citibank and Haiti magazines The Black Agenda Report, Bloomberg, Haiti Liberte, Radical History Review, Boston Review, LSE blog and my book Bankers and Empire.
However, all of these publications did not have an audience for this piece in less than a week in a decade.
If that means people who don’t buy academic books or have access to paid walls, academic journals start to think critically or differently, or expand their knowledge of debt, banks, Haiti, imperialism, and Citibank in particular, I am. happy about it.
And if the piece takes readers to other sources, which I think it contains, that’s great too. In addition, although they used some of my research, they also used it in some important ways that I didn’t, and I think that’s all you can hope for when you post your research.
(They also consulted and named Guy Pierre, a Haitian economic historian whose banking work I have always used, but whom North American Anglophonic historians rarely, if ever, refer to.)
Would I have liked to have seen more radical conclusions, more calls for direct action, a description of a manifesto condemning Citibank’s repatriation of Haiti from France? Of course.
But that’s NYT. However, it is surprising that they, as NYTs, have given us a surprising ballast in support of demands that are more radical than they have made: let us go after Citibank, for example. Or what about Puerto Rico? Or England and the West Indies.
Unfortunately, but perhaps usually, the opportunity seems to have been quickly lost. The debate over the series did not become an ethic of debt and rewards or a critique of the role of Citibank and others in US imperialism and the underdevelopment of the Caribbean, but a quote.
Historians effectively kidnapped a potentially critical conversation to make the story of how they were not part of the story. Why, we asked North American historians, are not the subjects of this story about Haiti?
That’s a little disgusting, this answer. But what can be expected from an academy structured by the same racist and imperial forces that have shaped Haiti’s history.
And the patented nature of Western knowledge about Haiti is, after all, part of the extraction regimes that have made Haiti “the poorest country in the hemisphere.”
Once NYTimes with all problems wrote against those extraction modes. It is unfortunate that historians have beaten it
New Republic should probably receive an award for the best headline in this story from journalist and professor Amy Vilence: “The New York Times Corrects poor Haiti coverage… The New York Times”.
Vilenc reiterates Dr. Hudson’s Twitter thread: “The Twitter tangle of unredited scientists is a side effect. The real people who have suffered from the way we have covered Haiti are Haitians.
Wilentz also responded to the U.S. defense and denial, which was published Messenger of Miami.
Jonathan M. Kats, journalist and author Capitalist gangstersbalanced.
Katz posted his opinion on his blog The Racket, in an entry entitled “What’s New (and What’s Not) in the NYT’s Great Haitian Story”.
This story finally disappeared over the weekend. The story doesn’t really cover it: it’s a four-line, six-pack with a paper insert in Sunday’s box that dominated the front page. In other words, it’s a news event – almost certainly after the epic success of the 1619 project, which only the New York Times can try.
The reactions have been intense. For most readers who have never heard (or forgotten) that so much of France and Citigroup’s wealth was literally stolen with a gun from Haiti, it has been a scandal and a shock. (I get emails from relatives I talk to every two years asking if I’ve heard this story before.) Meanwhile, my Twitter feed is filled with historians who furious that they were not mentioned for the help they provided to the Times or the disbelief that the ‘Registration Paper’ Columbated the central story of the place where Columbus was invented.
At the risk of being a bit of a Timesian on both sides, I think both camps matter. The packaging covered many very old plots of land, much of which is shown as if it were new. There are many “rarely taught or recognized,” “The Times Reveals,” and so on. about things that millions of people have known and talked about for decades. However, there is value in making this story more widely known in France and the United States. In addition, there are important reports that many people who think they know the story are missing.
Katz has been reporting on Haiti for some time.
No matter how you feel The New York Times, Like Professor Hudson, I hope you read The Ransom. And I hope that if this story was new to you or even if it wasn’t new but you want to dive a little into history to get more insight, you’ll need to take the time to follow the links in this story and watch the video.
Please join me in the comments to learn more as well as the weekly Caribbean Twitter compilation.