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The first and last king of Haiti - Marlene Daut

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The royal couple of Haiti rode into their coronation to thunderous applause. After receiving his ornate crown, Henry Christophe ascended his throne, towering 20 meters in the air. But little did the cheering onlookers know that the first king of Haiti would also be its last. Who was this revolutionary? Marlene Daut details how a man enslaved at birth rose through the ranks to become king.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Marlene Daut
  • Director Daniel Freire da Silva, Allan Dantas
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Producer Felipe Grosso, Odirlei Seixas, Liana Vianna
  • Senior Animator Daniel Freire da Silva, Allan Dantas
  • Character Designer Daniel Freire da Silva
  • Storyboard Artist Allan Dantas
  • Animator Jessé Alves, Rafael Almeida
  • Illustrator Ricke Ito
  • Composer Matheus Wittmann
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler, Alex Gendler
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
In 1807, the country of Haiti was split into two governments. Henry Christophe, a former general of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), became the president of northern Haiti, while Alexandre Pétion, also a veteran of the Revolution, became president over the southern part. However, in 1811, Christophe crowned himself king, inaugurating a nine-year monarchy that would only come to an end in 1820 when the king tragically committed suicide. What might we learn about Haiti today from the studying the country’s past?

Life after the Kingdom
After King Henry’s death, President Jean-Pierre Boyer would not only immediately reunite the north and south of Haiti, but by 1822 he would also succeed in bringing the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola (today the Dominican Republic) under one government. These moves effectively ended the Civil Wars that had been ravishing the island since Haitian independence. However, President Boyer also sought to make amends with France. In 1825, he therefore agreed to pay the French government 150 million francs as the price of the French government’s recognition of Haitian independence. This agreement with France’s King Charles X, referred to as an indemnity, was also designed to compensate former landholding enslavers for the loss of their plantations and for the revenues they no longer earned from slavery. The world had never seen such an agreement. Indeed, this would be the first and last time that formerly enslaved peoples would be forced to pay wide scale reparations to enslavers as the price of their freedom.

Paying the Debt
Although the new country was having difficulty paying this extraordinary sum, Haiti’s “debt” to France was only reduced to 90 million francs in 1838. And Haiti only managed to finish paying the agreed upon amount in 1898. However, it would not be until 1947 that they would complete the interest payments. The tax that France imposed on Haiti’s independence is widely considered to have bankrupted the new country. Many even acknowledge that Haiti’s economic precarity today can be directly linked to these unprecedented payments to France. The aftermath of Haiti’s revolution firmly illustrates that in many respects the country’s war against slavery did not end when Haitians became free.

Adjusted for inflation and interest, if France were to repay Haiti now, the amount owed would stand at over 40 billion US dollars. Attorney Ira Kurzban attempted to prepare legal proceedings against the French government to recover the estimated $21 billion (current dollars) in money extorted from Haiti during 1825 to 1944. Click here to learn more about what happened next.

Want to learn more about the modern implications of French colonialism in Haiti? Click here. Interested in learning more about the discussion of France compensating Haiti for it’s debt? Click here. For more on reparations for Haiti, check out how Haiti Paid France $21 Billion To Preserve Its Independence

King Henry’s Legacy
King Henry was adamantly against any agreement with France that did not have as a pre-stated condition the recognition of Haitian independence. He also did not believe that Haiti should ever compensate or pay reparations to France. We can only wonder how Haiti’s economic situation might be different today if the king had remained in power.

Adjusted for inflation and interest, if France were to repay Haiti now, the amount owed would stand at over 40 billion US dollars. Click here to learn about how King Henry of Haiti inspired the Marvel’s black panther.

For more information, click here: https://read.activelylearn.com/#teacher/reader/authoring/preview/905854/notes
and here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/13/hollande-haiti-visit-france-former-colony


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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Marlene Daut
  • Director Daniel Freire da Silva, Allan Dantas
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Producer Felipe Grosso, Odirlei Seixas, Liana Vianna
  • Senior Animator Daniel Freire da Silva, Allan Dantas
  • Character Designer Daniel Freire da Silva
  • Storyboard Artist Allan Dantas
  • Animator Jessé Alves, Rafael Almeida
  • Illustrator Ricke Ito
  • Composer Matheus Wittmann
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler, Alex Gendler
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-checker Eden Girma
  • See more