Education and the Cataclysm in Haiti

Education and the Cataclysm in Haiti


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Lavalas is there as a popular organization but there are several leaders, each one of them wanting

to become the leader. Banning Lavalas from elections has only complicated things. What’s

more, past choices were poorly done. For example, the people chose René Préval as someone

who could represent them, but the opposite has happened.



Books on the Caribbean

Hubert Cole. Christophe: King of Haiti. New York: The Viking Press, 1967.

C.L.R. James. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938)

Edourad Gissant. Caribbean Doscourse (2004)  /  Barbara Harlow. Resistance Literature (1987)

Josaphat B. Kubayanda. The Poet’s Africa: Africanness in the Poetry of Nicolas Guillen and Aime Cesaire (1990)


Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman.  Open Gate An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry (2001)

David P. Geggus, ed. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World.  University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

Jean-Bertand Aristide. Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization

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Education and the Cataclysm in Haiti

Darren Ell Interviews Rea Dol


Rea Dol is the Director and co-founder of Society of Providence United for the Economic Development of Petion-Ville (SOPUDEP), a grassroots organization in Haiti offering education for children and adults and a micro-credit program for women. Her work in the aid effort following the January 12th earthquake in Haiti was the subject of a New York Times documentary. While in Haiti in July, Montreal freelance journalist Darren Ell asked her about the impact of the earthquake.Darren Ell: What happened to the community of Morne Lazarre, where your school, SOPUDEP, is located?Rea Dol: The community of Morne Lazarre was devastated by the earthquake. I was in the school when it happened and I cannot describe the horror around me. The school was empty and did not fall, but the neighbourhood collapsed. Five people were crushed to death just meters from me when one of the outer walls of the school grounds collapsed. My first responsibility was to my family, so I had to get home, but the streets were chaotic. People were panicking and screaming. I had to run home ten kilometres through those streets to find my family. The phones weren’t working. It was horrible. In Morne Lazarre as in many areas of the city, it’s hard to say who died and how many because in many cases, the only people who knew who was in a house were the inhabitants themselves, and they died. Many are still under the rubble. Extracted bodies were rapidly buried, and now people are displaced throughout the city, so it’s impossible to get accurate numbers. We know Morne Lazarre intimately though. Three thousand people lived here prior to the earthquake, and we estimate that 65% of them died and 95% of their homes were destroyed. Darren Ell: How did the earthquake affect you personally?Rea Dol: On a personal level, when the earthquake happened, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t die. Where I was, many of the people around me died. It affected my profoundly, but I knew I had to overcome my feelings. I had to join in the struggle. I understood quickly that I had a mission. At first, I felt unable to offer support, but I had to do something, so I got a gallon of Betadine disinfectant and some gauze and went out into the street. I cleaned wounds wherever I could. After three months, I finally took a break. But during those first three months, I had boundless energy. So much needed to be done. I spent a lot of time in the camps with my staff and students. They really needed our solidarity. No other schools were doing this, going out into the city to find their people and reconnect with them. I couldn’t have offered support to anyone with out the support of the Sawatzky Family Foundation (SFF), the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (HERF), the Haiti Action Committee, special friends of SOPUDEP and individuals donating through the SOPUDEP website. They were always there for us. The work I did during the crisis built my credibility in the city as well to the point where people were consulting me on questions of the credibility of various organizations. But it was more than that. People began staying with me in my home! They kept coming and we cared for them, and we still do.Darren Ell: What has been the impact of the earthquake on education in Haiti?Rea Dol: 25% of our schools were destroyed, 50% were seriously damaged and another 25% are standing, but staff and students won’t work in the buildings, so classes have resumed under tarps, but at least 50% of the students haven’t returned. Many died, and others have been dispersed throughout the city now in the tent cities, often far from their schools. It’s a very difficult time for education. Darren Ell: How has the earthquake affected the students and teachers?Rea Dol: We did an assessment of students after the earthquake. Some children who had an average of 80% prior to the earthquake scored 40%, a serious decline. There are several reasons for this. One is the living conditions they now find themselves in. When they had their homes, they could find a place to study, but in the camps, it’s hot and crowded in the tents. What’s more, kids are running around the camps all day, so students are distracted and can’t get their work done. The trauma of the earthquake has diminished their capacity to retain information and learn. In April, when we reopened the school, we didn’t get into the regular curriculum at all. We did some cultural activities, sang songs and danced, but nothing else until May. We asked students to write about the earthquake. They all said it was the worst moment of their lives. They said they’d never recover from it. They added though that school was like medicine for them. Coming back to school was like life beginning again for them. When we reopened, the teachers weren’t up to it. They were traumatized and asked for psycho-social assistance because they didn’t feel stable. Imagine how awful the students must have been feeling if the adults themselves needed help! We found a specialist in the city to help teachers get back to work. The assistance was successful, and yet when a truck rolled by and the school shook, it was total panic in the school and the teachers were the first ones out. We told the teachers they were supposed to be the last ones out of the classroom! They said, “We like our life too!” But I understood. They had to run. They were too traumatized. Everyone was. After the quake, many teachers were living in very bad conditions. Some were sleeping in cars or public squares because they didn’t have tents yet. So we got tents for everyone so they could have some stability in order to work and prepare their classes. Today, six months after the earthquake, their situation has somewhat improved but it’s still difficult.

Darren Ell: Many NGOs were criticized during the earthquake. What was your experience of aid from large organizations?Rea Dol: The number of NGO’s in Haiti has ballooned again in Haiti. Are they going to change things fundamentally? We don’t think so. Without generalizing to all the cases, and without saying they haven’t helped, we believe they could do more. As far as organizations that could have helped SOPUDEP, there is Save the Children who sponsored a lot of organizations. They’re located right next door to us and they never helped us at all. They had a cash for work program for rubble removal, but I had to pay out of pocket to arrange rubble removal. When they finally came six months after the quake, they asked how they could help us and said they could fix the roof and clean out the toilets. But we didn’t see these as problems. We had more urgent needs related to our classrooms, but that assistance wasn’t there. What we really needed—financial assistance—came from our regular donors and via our website. The big organizations offered only a small amount of material support: 100 tarps from the Red Cross, plus Save the Children eventually brought in some chalkboards and other school supplies. But the direct aid we gave to families, over 2957 families in 32 areas throughout the city, came from the SFF. It is the engine of SOPUDEP. With the SFF, we have a stable budget and we can plan. Teachers can also plan their lives now knowing there is a paycheck coming.   On a more global level across the country, aid was a disaster in terms of helping families. NGOs decided to disburse assistance to women only. This led to the abuse of women. They would wait four hours under a hot sun, they’d get beaten by guards. This was shocking to us. They should have chosen Haitians to manage this. The voucher system for aid was abused. Vouchers were hoarded and given to friends while others got nothing. In the camps it was a mess. People with the vouchers were demanding sex for vouchers. Women’s organizations were very upset. Women’s desperation was being used as leverage for sex. What’s more, in order to get help, you had to demonstrate you were in absolute misery. How poor do you have to be to get help? For example, to get a tarp, you had to prove your ripped bedsheet was inadequate.Darren Ell: What does the near and long term future hold for SOPUDEP?Rea Dol: Our current school building is problematic. For years, we’ve received threats, sometimes armed, from a corrupt mayor. For this reason, we were already taking measures prior to the earthquake to find another location for the school. The earthquake made this move imperative. No one trusts the old building and the community is in ruins. We’ll be moving from Morne Lazarre to Delmas 83, quite far away, and this will cause problems for many of our students. Nonetheless, we want to offer all the help we can to keep everyone in our program. We also want to help other schools in the area. Whenever we receive support, we offer supplies to other schools as well. SOPUDEP includes our main K-12 school, adult education, and a street children education program. We are reflecting on the problem of access to university as well, a huge problem in Haiti. We’ve received a proposal on this matter, and it could be an area for growth in the future. We have a larger vision in the field of health. Anything that represents a major roadblock for the population is where we put our energies. Another problem is unemployment, so we created a micro-credit program for women. Not being able to help your children yourself is awful, so we’re offering women the means to generate income and feed their families. When we began, we had a small group of adults. It was a community organization that came together to discuss the problems of the country. While doing that, we saw more important problems. We started with activities for children every Saturday. Former President Aristide eventually integrated us into the field of literacy. Today, we have 58 people running our various programs. We are planning the construction of a new school, but our teachers need ongoing help for salaries. We also need assistance integrating our other projects into the SOPUDEP program: our micro-credit program and the elementary school in Boucan La Pluie neighbourhood. We have grown a lot, but always one step at a time. It is very difficult to build organizations in Haiti. There are few means and we can’t know if we’re going to succeed. Things are shifting and changing all the time, and now things have been degraded to the lowest level possible. They say this is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It doesn’t have to be that way. If we unite, a lot can happen. Working only for your own well-being will get us nowhere. Because of the terrible things that have occurred in our past, trust is an important issue. You absolutely need the trust of those around you in order to accomplish anything. What’s more, the systems in this country are deeply problematic and we need support and solidarity to change them.Darren Ell: What are your feelings on the reconstruction plan for Haiti?Rea Dol: The Government of Haiti should have taken the responsibility to rebuild many of the affected areas. Instead, construction was chaotic and anarchic with no oversight. As a consequence, people are currently living with significant physical dangers and many have already been victims of these dangers. The big question is: “Who is responsible for the reconstruction plan and will ordinary people be allowed to participate in it?” Thus far, we don’t see this at all. An example is what we see across from the National Palace. This is the face of the country, a symbol of Haiti. And what do we see six months after the earthquake? Thousands of people living in absolute squalor in tents. Many people believe that reconstruction will not be possible with the current government, and many are concerned about who will be in the next government. Electing our own representatives is a sacred right and part of the solution we need. We are however in doubt about many things. Lavalas is there as a popular organization but there are several leaders, each one of them wanting to become the leader. Banning Lavalas from elections has only complicated things. What’s more, past choices were poorly done. For example, the people chose René Préval as someone who could represent them, but the opposite has happened. Six months after the quake, nothing serious has been done. The first phase is over: everyone has shelter. We should have seen a second phase of more permanent shelters, but this hasn’t happened. The third phase should have been the rebuilding of the country, but we don’t see how this can happen with the current government. It’s abdicated its responsibilities. We’ve seen no results and I’m very concerned. Haiti needs to change. Otherwise, why would we keep working? All Haitians need to be very conscious right now, otherwise we won’t get anywhere.Darren Ell—originally from Saskatchewan—is a teacher, photographer and freelance journalist residing in Montreal. Between 2006 and 2008, he documented the legacy of the 2004 coup d’état in online publication with the Citizenshift, The Dominion and Haiti Action. His photographic installation on this subject, Haiti Holdup, was exhibited at Concordia University in Montreal. Photo © Darren Ell 2010

8 September 2010

Source: CanadaHaitiAction

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UN probes base as source of Haiti cholera outbreak—Jonathan Katz—Mirebalais, Haiti—27 October 2010—U.N. investigators took samples of foul-smelling waste trickling behind a Nepalese peacekeeping base toward an infected river system on Wednesday, following persistent accusations that excrement from the newly arrived unit caused the cholera epidemic that has sickened more than 4,000 people in the earthquake-ravaged nation.

Associated Press journalists who were visiting the base unannounced happened upon the investigators. Mission spokesman Vincenzo Pugliese confirmed after the visit that the military team was testing for cholera – the first public acknowledgment that the 12,000-member force is directly investigating allegations its base played a role in the outbreak.

Meanwhile the epidemic continued to spread, with cases confirmed in two new departments in Haiti’s north and northeast, said U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokeswoman Imogen Wall. At least 303 people have died and 4,722 been hospitalized.

International aid workers and the United Nations are focusing their efforts on stemming the spread of the outbreak, which was first noted on Oct. 20. But Haitians are increasingly turning their attention to its origins: How did a disease which has not been seen in Haiti since the early 20th century suddenly erupt in the countryside?—HeraldOnline

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Is Haiti’s deadly cholera outbreak an imported disease? by Ezili Dantò—A chilling video testimony of brackish Red Cross water in Haiti—Cholera confirmed in Haiti capital. For another compelling testimony on Red Cross delivering filthy water to Haiti victims since the earthquake, view also: How did the Red Cross spend $106 Million Dollars in Haiti: (Ezili Dantò’s note: Amongst some of the testimonies that’s not clearly translated in this most valuable video: a woman standing next to a small child repeating “no, no, no,” points to a water drum with a “Red Cross” sign on it and says that even the water they give is not treated. She explains that she drinks it because she has no money to buy good drinkable water but suffers right now from a stomach ache from drinking the Red Cross’ polluted water.)

Here’s an example of help Haiti could use that is beyond Clinton/CocaCola/Sweatshops/Monsanto hybrid seeds/unregulated gold/copper and other foreign mining, and more foreign toxins that further pollutes Haiti’s ground water: Communication, Water purifier, electricity and environmentally conscious, all in one—

Containing Haiti Cholera: Lead role played by Cuban doctors (6 November 2010)

Health experts say UN troops could have caused Haiti cholera outbreak, call for investigation—November 4, 2010

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Hurricane swamps camps of Haitian quake refugees

November 6, 2010

“We have two catastrophes that we are managing. The first is the hurricane, and the second is cholera,” President Rene Preval told the nation in a television and radio address. Aid workers are concerned that the storm will worsen Haiti’s cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 440 people and sent more than 6,700 others to hospitals. Haitian authorities had urged the 1.3 million Haitians left homeless by the earthquake to leave the camps and go to the homes of friends and family

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Ezili Dantò is an award winning playwright, a performance poet, author and human rights attorney. She was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and raised in the USA. She holds a BA from Boston College, a JD from the University of Connecticut School of law. She is a human rights lawyer, cultural and political activist and the founder and president of the Ezili’s Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network (HLLN).

She runs the Haitian Perspectives on-line journal and the Ezili Dantò Newsletter. Ezili’s HLLN is the recognized leading and most trustworthy international voice in Haiti advocacy, human rights work, Haiti news and Haiti news analysis. HLLN’s work is central to those concerned with the welfare of the people of Haiti, Haiti capacity building, sovereignty, institutionalization of the rule of law, and justice and peace without occupation or militarization.

 Ezili Dantò is also an educator who specializes in teaching about the light and beauty of Haitian culture; the Symbolic and Archetypal Nature of Haitian Vodun; the illegality and immorality of forcing neoliberal policies on Haiti and the developing world . . . For more go to the Ezili Danto/HLLN website at

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Not just “gang leaders” in Haiti fought for Aristide to finish his five-year term. The demonstrators are lifting up their hands to indicate, five years, five years, five years—senk an, senk an, senk an. No Bush regime change in Haiti! Most of the Haitian mothers you see in this video, who were lucky enough to have survived the 2004-2006 Lavalas witch-hunt and US/UN guns from the 2004 Bush regime change in Haiti, are suffering unbearable, some from grief, humiliation, Clorox hunger, or worst, some on top of all this, from traumatic rape and sexual abuse by the “peacekeepers,” US/NGO/IFI “saviors,” and their Haitian mercenary arms, or as a direct result of the opportunistic anarchy that landed in Haiti after this video was taken.

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Literature & the Arts


     Edwidge Danticat (interview with novelist on Haiti) The Dew Breaker  Out of the Shadows

     Experiment in Haiti  (Art)

     Fourth World Art

     French West Indian Writer (bio-sketches by Mercer Cook)

Open Gate An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry edited by Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman

Wordsworth’s Toussaint  (poem)

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Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

By Edwidge Danticat

Create Dangerously is an eloquent and moving expression of Danticat’s belief that immigrant artists are obliged to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy. In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis. Inspired by Albert Camus’ lecture, “Create Dangerously,” and combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself, who create despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them. Danticat eulogizes an aunt who guarded her family’s homestead in the Haitian countryside, a cousin who died of AIDS while living in Miami as an undocumented alien, and a renowned Haitian radio journalist whose political assassination shocked the world.

Danticat writes about the Haitian novelists she first read as a girl at the Brooklyn Public Library, a woman mutilated in a machete attack who became a public witness against torture, and the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and other artists of Haitian descent. Danticat also suggests that the aftermaths of natural disasters in Haiti and the United States reveal that the countries are not as different as many Americans might like to believe..—CaribbeanLiterarySalon

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon’s violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King’s assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 27 October 2010




Home  Toussaint Table    Inside the Caribbean    Religion and Politics

Related files: The Immigrant Artist at Work   Education and the Cataclysm in Haiti  Suffocating the poor: a modern parable  The Non-Sovereign State of Haiti

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