Haiti: A Historical Time Line


1492: Dec. 5, Columbus lands on a large island he names Isla Española (Spanish Island), later changed to Hispaniola. It is inhabited by Taino and Arawak Indians.


1503: First Africans brought to Hispaniola for labor after pleas from a Spanish priest who wants to save the Indians from extinction.

1592: Spanish governor executes Queen Anacaona, the last Taino chief.

1659: First official settlement on Tortuga (off the coast of Haiti) by French buccaneers who hunt wild cattle and by pirates who attack ships sailing from South America to Europe.

1664: French West India Co. takes control of western third of the island and names it Saint-Domingue.

1670: First French settlement on the main island, named Cap Francois, later Cap-Français and now Cap-Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti. Settlers grow cacao, coffee, tobacco and indigo and begin importing slaves as labor.

1685: Louis XIV enacts the Code Noir, which regulates the treatment of slaves and sets obligations for owners. Corporal punishment is allowed, sanctioning brutal treatment.

1697: Spain formally cedes the western third of the island to France via the Treaty of Ryswick.


1749: Port-au-Prince is founded.

1758: Rebel leader Mackandal, born in Guinea, is captured and burned alive in Cap-Francois after seven years leading an insurrection.


1777: French officers lead a regiment of 750 free blacks from Saint-Domingue to help the fledgling U.S. fight British troops at Savannah, Ga. The unit includes several future leaders of Haiti.

1780: Saint-Domingue is France's richest colony, producing 40 percent of all sugar and 60 percent of all coffee consumed in Europe.


1789: When the French Revolution starts, the colony has 500,000 slaves, 32,000 whites and 25,000 people of color (mixed race), many of whom have inherited wealth and slaves from their white fathers.

1791: Aug. 22, slave revolt begins. Tradition says it starts with a voodoo ceremony led by Dutty Boukman. He is captured and executed, but revolt spreads and plantations are torched.


1794: Feb. 4, French Assembly abolishes slavery in all its colonies, ratifying what is already reality in Saint-Domingue. 

1801: Toussaint L'Ouverture defeats British and Spanish troops that invaded Santo Domingo and controls the entire island.


1806: Dessalines is assassinated and Haiti splits into two states, a northern state led by an emperor, Henri Christophe, and a southern republic led by president Alexandre Pétion.

1820: After the deaths of Pétion and Christophe, Jean-Pierre Boyer unifies Haiti into one nation and takes control of Santo Domingo as well.


1825: France's King Charles X recognizes Haiti's independence but demands 150 million francs in indemnity, backing his conditions with a fleet of warships.

1844: Dominican Republic declares its independence from Haiti.

1863: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln recognizes Haiti and allows trade for the first time.


1904: Haiti celebrates 100 years of independence.

1915: U.S. forces occupy Haiti; they will stay until 1934.

1930: First full democratic elections in Haiti; Stenio Vincent elected.

1937: Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo orders the expulsion of Haitians working in his country. Between 17,000 and 35,000 are killed.


1957: Francois Duvalier, a doctor, is elected president. "Papa Doc" establishes one of the most brutal dictatorships in Haitian history. His rule is enforced by a militia commonly known as Tonton Macoutes.

1971: Duvalier dies; his son takes power and is proclaimed president for life, like his father.


1974: The Haitian national soccer team participates in the World Cup.

1986: Unrest leads the military to oust "Baby Doc" and his kleptocratic clan.

1990: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest, is elected with 67 percent of the vote.


1991: Aristide is ousted in a coup that many Haitians believe was financed by the business elite.

1994: Backed by a U.N. resolution, the Clinton administration restores Aristide to power.


1996: René Préval is elected president; he is seen as a stand-in for Aristide.

2000: Aristide elected president again after much-disputed parliamentary elections.


2004: Aristide leaves under pressure of an armed rebellion; he claims that the U.S. kidnapped him and shipped him out.

2006: Préval is elected again. A U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti since 2003 grows to 9,000 troops.


2008: Unrest erupts as Haitians riot against high food prices.

2010: Jan. 12, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 devastates Port-au-Prince and damages much of Haiti.

2010: March 25, President Obama asks Congress for a $2.8 billion special appropriation to pay for rescue costs and to help rebuild Haiti.


2010: Nov. 28, Haiti holds general elections to select a new president, 10 senators and 99 lower-house deputies. The process is immediately challenged as fraudulent, setting off violence and widespread protests. 

2011: Jan. 12, one year after the earthquake, Haiti's future remains uncertain. Just a fraction of the promised aid has arrived, little reconstruction has begun and the next step in the political process remains unclear.