Date of Degree

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

History

Advisor(s)

Joshua B. Freeman

Committee Members

Thomas Kessner

Nancy Foner

Millery Polyné

Amy Chazkel

Subject Categories

History

Abstract

This dissertation explores the evolution of political activism among Haitians in the United States from the formation of Haitian New York in the late 1950s to the return of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti in 1994. It traces the efforts of Haitian activists to build bridges connecting New York and Miami to the grassroots organizations in Haiti, finding a considerable degree of success in their efforts to construct a transnational movement that had a substantial impact both in Haiti and in the United States. Shedding additional light on the interconnected history of Haiti and the United States, this dissertation also adds to the growing historiography on immigrant activism and international campaigns for democracy and human rights.

At the outset, politics in Haitian New York was splintered among competing factions, though by the early 1970s there began to form a somewhat unified anti-Duvalier opposition movement. The arrival of the Haitian "boat people" in South Florida in the early 1970s continued the evolution of Haitian politics in the United States, triggering a refugee crisis that drew the attention of the activists in New York and forcing a reconsideration of political vision and strategy that had previously been solely concerned with the overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship. The grassroots resistance in Haiti and in the United States saw a slight opening with the arrival of President Jimmy Carter, but with Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan, came a wave of repression in Haiti and stringent new policies toward Haitian refugees. The uprisings of 1985 and 1986 that toppled the Duvalier dictatorship transformed Haitian politics at home and abroad, enabling an expanded and tightened network of activism connecting New York, Miami, and Haiti, which grew from 1987 to 1989. The years 1990 and 1991 were the pinnacle moment for the linked popular movements in New York, Miami, and Haiti, though Haitian activists were soon forced to pour their energy into the overlapping campaigns aimed at reversing the coup against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and defending the new wave of refugees that the coup produced.

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History Commons

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