People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Haitian Americans

About the Haitian Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Haitian-Americans and more.


Where They Came From: Haiti occupies the western third of Hispaniola, a Caribbean island lying between Cuba and Puerto Rico. Haitians have been trickling into the U.S. since the colonial period, but only since 1957, when the brutal dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier seized power, have large numbers emigrated.

Why They Left: The Haitians emigrating to the U.S. say that it was the barbaric and pervasive political and economic repression of the Haitian peasants by both the old regime of "Papa Doc" and the current tyranny of his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier that forced them to abandon their homeland.

Where They Settled: There is a small Haitian community in Miami--estimated population 1,500--and a larger one in and near Montreal, of approximately 40,000, but the vast majority of Haitian immigrants live in New York City, mainly in the ghetto areas of the upper West Side of Manhattan and Brooklyn. A small but increasing number of middle-class Haitians are living in Queens.

Numbers: From 20% to 50% of all Haitians in the U.S. are illegal aliens. However, it is estimated that there are about 300,000 Haitians living in New York City, most having arrived since 1957.

Their Story in America: Haitian soldiers were part of the French contingent that fought against the British in the American Revolution, and while there has always been a small number of Haitians--the most African of all Caribbean populations--living in the U.S., their story has yet to be written. The same is true of the 300,000 who have arrived since 1957. A combination of factors--the large percentage of illegals, the desperate poverty, the French-Creole culture, and the exaggerated association with voodoo that they share with no other immigrant group--has caused the Haitian Americans to be one of the most isolated and ignored ethnic groups in the U.S.

Famous Haitian Americans: Artist and naturalist John James Audubon, renowned for his drawings of birds; and frontier merchant Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who was the first permanent resident of Chicago.

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