Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Haitian Tragedy. Part 2

Dumarsais Estimé, President of Haiti 1946-1950 (Wikicommons)

Elderly Haitians remember the postwar era with nostalgia. Their country benefited from the postwar doubling of sisal and coffee exports, as well as the boom in tourism. The resulting growth in government revenues made it possible to increase the national budget from 12 to 21 million dollars between 1946 and 1949. The civil service was expanded, and this expansion created a large black middle class (Labelle 1987, p. 56). Above all else, authoritarian mulatto rule had given way in 1946 to democratic black rule.

Yet discontent was high among the main beneficiaries of that era: middle-class blacks. Though much better off than the average Haitian, they preferred to compare themselves with middle-class mulattoes, who often enjoyed the trappings of inherited wealth: two-storey homes, French furnishings, and American cars. In addition to feeling jealous, they also resented having to conform to European norms: speaking, reading, and writing in French and not in Creole, practicing Catholicism and rejecting Vodou, straightening their hair (in the case of girls and women), wearing European-style dress, etc. This resentment strengthened the appeal of black nationalism for middle-class blacks.

In the 1970s, the anthropologist Micheline Labelle went to Haiti to survey middle-class mulattoes and middle-class blacks. The mulatto respondents saw differences between the two groups in terms of values:

[Mulattoes] have more stable fortunes because they know how "to make money work," although on an international scale, with few exceptions, huge fortunes are not to be found in Haiti. They have a sense of business, and they have administrative and economic competence.

In second place [in economic success], the same respondents pointed to the minority of blacks in power, who they said had gained very large fortunes through politics and not through personal effort and work. They [the blacks in power] did not know how "to make money work" or how to make the country progress. [They were] "demi-monde" people who had become millionaires, an elite completely created from scratch in 1946. (Labelle 1987, p. 191)

Labelle found the same discourse among many middle-class blacks:

On the one hand, I was told that "the mulattoes still hold the top," that they control the economy because they know how to earn money through their work and they make money "work" because they know how to produce and team up with each other. On the other hand, [the respondents] denounced the black man who gets rich through politics and who accumulates to show off, refuses to invest, spends outrageously, and does not know how to administer his assets. Few blacks are said to have a stable business, or a business well set up: "Wealth that is based only on politics may be swept away with the arrival of another [political] current," they said.  As for the blacks of the "middle classes" not involved in politics, their behavior was likewise stigmatized: when they have money they waste it like the people in power; otherwise they turn to the "culture" or take refuge "in the State":

"The Haitian finds it degrading to have to work. He envies the white man but doesn't think he should act the same way. He prefers to sit behind a bureau [...]. Those who are in politics hide their money in foreign banks. Never does the Haitian think he should make his capital bear fruit [...]." (middle-class black woman, 22 years old).1 (Labelle 1987, pp. 194-196)

"If you manage to get a good mulatto friend, that friendship is solid. You can count more on that friendship. Among blacks, there is much more distrust, because of their parvenu mentality" (middle-class black man, 42 years old) (Labelle 1987, p. 208)

When questioned on the relative honesty of the two groups, most of the middle-class mulattoes refused to comment. Of those who did, Labelle summarized their comments as follows:

The mulattoes, it is said, have more cohesion, solidarity, respect for their word when given, self-control, sense of responsibility, and scruples. The black man is cunning, mistrustful, thieving, untruthful, treacherous, politically irresponsible, and corrupt.

"There is more solidarity, less harshness among mulattoes. The mulatto world is centrifugal, while the black world is centripetal. The black man absolutely wants to get out of his milieu; he's ready to crush another black man. They say they can trust a mulatto more than a black man" (middle-class mulatto man, 54 years old).

"In my milieu it's said you must not trust black people. It's said they try to get a mulatto's trust in order to betray him afterwards. Put them in power, they'll behave irresponsibly, they'll destroy what has been done, they'll try to profit" (middle-class mulatto woman, 23 years old). (Labelle 1987, pp. 198-201)

Middle-class black respondents tended to see things differently:

"[Mulattoes] are hollow-headed. They have nothing except their big money. For them everything is calculated, even their marriages... their conscience is elastic. In marriage, the black man will go overboard for the woman he loves. For him [the mulatto man], he calculates; usually it's a matter of families, of dowries... Blacks are very much driven by hate because they're categorical, while the mulatto is cunning" (middle-class black woman, 55 years old). 

"It's said the mulatto is depraved [vicieux], and thieving: "Sé bèt visyeu, lâch" [It's a depraved and cowardly animal]. They flatter, love money, their governments are woven out of corruption. Sycophants. People recognize that, and they recognize it among themselves..." (middle-class black man, 42 years old). 

"Sé li ki vòlè [He's the one who steals], they're exploiters. They'll trick you every time. They don't consider this country to be their own because they're of foreign origin. They aren't like Haitians, so they have to get the most profit out of this position. Sé yo mêm k'ap manjé kòb pèi a [Only they eat the money of the country]" (middle-class black man, 26 years old). (Labelle 1987, pp. 210)

Nonetheless, some of the black respondents corroborated what the mulatto respondents had said. This was especially true for the older ones who had grown up under mulatto domination:

[For the older black respondents] the mulatto man is more honest than the black man. He acted with more tact and moderation in the past, more intelligence also. He is more respectful of the rules. He is more loyal, acts nastily less often [donne moins de mauvais coups], and hesitates more before doing so. (Labelle 1987, p. 204)

Rise of the black middle class and noirisme

The postwar empowerment of the black middle class radically changed Haiti's social and political landscape. Previously, power had been overwhelmingly in the hands of the mulatto community, with political conflict being between a mulatto-dominated Right and a mulatto-dominated Left. In this conflict, most black Haitians were indifferent bystanders. There was, however, a small but growing black middle class whose political leanings were noiriste (black nationalist) and whom the Right saw as natural allies in its struggle with the Left:

[...] noiriste intellectuals generally came from the emerging black middle class of the occupation period [...]. Paradoxically, despite the U.S. segregation policies and blatant racism, the possibilities for social mobility for blacks improved considerably during the occupation, since for the first time in Haiti's history large numbers of blacks received postsecondary education and entered into the civil service. (Kaussen 2005, p. 69)

It was especially this group that President Sténio Vincent (1930-1941) had in mind when he insisted on making his state addresses in Creole. Under Vincent, noiristes never suffered the persecution that Marxists did, probably because he never imagined that noirisme would become politically consequential.

Yet it did, partly because the black middle class continued to grow, and partly because the U.S. intervened to weaken the competing ideologies of Catholic authoritarianism and Marxism. In 1941, Roosevelt pressured President Vincent to step down:

Indeed, Roosevelt was not ready to support Stenio Vincent for a third term, because the State Department had discovered Stenio Vincent was encouraging and supporting a large political movement of Anti-Americanism. (Laudun 2008, p. 191)

In the context of that time "Anti-Americanism" probably meant Axis sympathies. Vincent was replaced by a weaker and more liberal leader, who in turn had to resign in 1946.

In the ensuing presidential election, all of the candidates were black, and the winner was a moderate noiriste, Dumarsais Estimé (1946-1950). The mulatto minority continued to wield much influence for another decade, but only behind the scenes. Even before the election of François Duvalier, they found themselves increasingly excluded from the political arena and viewed as tolerated guests in their own country. 

The mulatto community had few other options during this time of increasing exclusion and marginalization. Many had invested their energies in the Catholic authoritarianism of Sténio Vincent, but that ideology had come to an end with the end of the Second World War. Others had turned to Socialism and Marxism, but that option too was becoming problematic. In 1944, their main intellectual leader, Jacques Roumain, had died under mysterious circumstances. In the late 1940s, the United States pressured Estimé to distance himself from his radical leftist allies.

Initially, his administration included a coalition of dissidents who led opposition to previous regimes. But Estimé learned the United States viewed his government unfavorably as radically left-wing. As the coalition broke up, fiery labor leader Daniel Fignolé and socialist George Rigaud were eased out of the cabinet. Estimé would later attempt to solidify ties to the United States by exaggerating the communist threat to his government. (Wikipedia 2018).

With the Left sidelined and the Right eradicated, the way was now clear for an increasingly radical black nationalism. "Estimé's noiriste government represented a significant departure from previous administrations. Government jobs, including cabinet positions, were overwhelmingly held by black professionals instead of members of the light-skinned elite" (Wikipedia 2018). Mulatto families who had previously gone into politics or the civil service now had to turn to the private sector (Labelle 1987, p. 66). 

Middle-class blacks thus became direct beneficiaries of noirisme, and its most ardent supporters.

To be cont'd


1. When identifying her respondents, Labelle uses the term "bourgeoisie" for the mulatto middle class and "petty bourgeoisie" for the black middle class. (Labelle 1987, p. 40)


Abbott, E. (1988). Haiti. A Shattered Nation, London: Duckworth Overlook  

Kaussen, V. (2005). Race, Nation, and the Symbolics of Servitude in Haitian Noirisme, in A. Isfahani-Hammond (ed.). The Masters and the Slaves. Plantation Relations and Mestizaje in American Imaginaries (pp. 67-88), New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Labelle, M. (1987). Idéologie de couleur et classes sociales en Haïti, Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal.

Laudun, M. (2008). To Set the Record Straight. From Slavery - Independence - Revolution to the United States of America Intervention and Occupation 1915-1934, Victoria (BC): Trafford

Wikipedia (2018). Dumarsais Estiméé

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Haitian tragedy. Part 1

Jacques Roumain (1907-1944) - poet, anthropologist, and founder of the Haitian Communist Party

Haiti is the most African of all countries in the New World, the average Haitian being 95% African by ancestry. In comparison, the proportion is 77-82% for the average Jamaican (Simms et al. 2010) and 30% for the average Brazilian from Bahia, the most African part of Brazil (Pena et al., 2001). This is not because Haiti never had a substantial European or mixed population. Before the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), the country was 8% white, 5% mulatto (gens de couleur), and 87% black.

The Revolution led to a mass emigration of whites and to ethnic cleansing of those who remained.

On 1 January 1804, Dessalines proclaimed Haiti an independent nation. Dessalines later gave the order to all cities on Haiti that all white men should be put to death. The weapons used should be silent weapons such as knives and bayonets rather than gunfire, so that the killing could be done more quietly, and avoid warning intended victims by the sound of gunfire and thereby giving them the opportunity to escape.

[...] Dessalines did not specifically mention that the white women should be killed, and the soldiers were reportedly somewhat hesitant to do so. In the end, however, they were also put to death, though normally at a later stage of the massacre than the adult males. The argument for killing the women was that whites would not truly be eradicated if the white women were spared to give birth to new Frenchmen.

Before his departure from a city, Dessalines would proclaim an amnesty for all the whites who had survived in hiding during the massacre. When these people left their hiding place, however, they were killed as well. (Wikipedia 2018a)

The mulattoes fared better than the whites, but they too suffered during the Revolution and its long aftermath. From 1799 to 1800 many were killed and many more fled the country during the Guerre des couteaux (the War of Knives), which pitted the mulatto-dominated south of the country against the black-dominated north. This regional rivalry, and its racial overtones, continued between the President of Haiti, Alexandre Pétion, in the south, and the King of Haiti, Henri Christophe, in the north.

But the rival mulatto-run South was a source of never-ending bitterness, and in 1811 Christophe renewed his war against Pétion. Pétion's victory provoked in the "Black King" a hatred of mulattoes "so deep and fiend-like, that nothing would satisfy the direness of his vengeance but the utter extermination of that race," wrote one of his contemporaries. (Abbott 1988)

Christophe died in 1820, and Pétion's successor, the mulatto Jean-Pierre Boyer, seized not only the north but also the Spanish part of the island of Hispaniola. After Boyer's ouster in 1843, and the loss of Spanish Hispaniola the following year, Haiti went through almost two decades of turmoil.

The late 19th century: re-Christianization and re-Francization

Stability gradually returned after an 1860 agreement with the Vatican to reintroduce Catholic churches, schools, hospitals, and other institutions, thus creating much of the infrastructure of a modern society. Catholic colleges emerged as incubators for new ideas, and Haiti in general, especially its elites, became re-Christianized and re-Francized (Delisle 2003).

The late 19th century was thus a time of relative peace, and it was during this time that the country's mulatto minority began to thrive. Traders from Germany, Italy, and the Levant arrived, and many married into mulatto families. German traders in particular began to play a pivotal role:

The small German community in Haiti (approximately 200 in 1910) wielded a disproportionate amount of economic power. Germans controlled about 80 percent of the country's international commerce; they also owned and operated utilities in Cap Haïtien and Port-au-Prince, the main wharf and a tramway in the capital, and a railroad in the north. (Sommers 2016, p. 10)

Fears of a German protectorate

Germany itself took an interest in Haiti:

Germany made overtures in 1912 to the then existing Haitian regime for a cession of Saint Nicholas Mole as a German coaling station, for German control of Haitian customs, and for preferred port rights, all to be based on a German loan of $2,000,000. When this negotiation became known at Washington, Germany was called upon for an explanation. The charge was denied in 1914, but at that time Germany stated that no scheme of reorganization or control in Haiti could be thought of unless European nations were permitted to exercise the same rights as the United States. This German statement constituted nothing less than a challenge to the Monroe Doctrine. (Tinker 1922, p. 50)

In the three decades leading up to the First World War, Imperial Germany was expanding its overseas empire and may indeed have been seeking to impose a protectorate on Haiti with help from the mulatto minority. This was certainly the suspicion of the United States, which began a longstanding policy of supporting black nationalists in Haiti as a counterweight to its mulatto leaders, who were seen as more likely to collude with other outside powers, first Germany and later Cuba and the Soviet Union. To this end, the U.S. supported a series of black nationalist presidents in the early 20th century, the last one being Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam (March to July 1915):

[...] he was already notorious throughout Haiti for ordering the massacre of civilians in the mulatto-dominated town of Jacmel while commandant there. [...] And like so many black presidents before him, Sam looked for enemies within the ranks of the mulatto elite. One of his first presidential acts was to charge scores of mulattoes with political dissidence and imprison them [...] (Abbott 1988)

This crackdown produced a backlash:

As the fifth president in five turbulent years, Sam was forced to contend with a revolt against his own regime, led by Dr. Rosalvo Bobo, who opposed the government's expanded commercial and strategic ties with the United States. Fearing that he would share the same fate as his predecessors, Sam acted harshly against his political opponents, particularly the better educated and wealthier mulatto population. The culmination of his repressive measures came on 27 July 1915, when he ordered the execution of 167 political prisoners, including former president Zamor, who was being held in a Port-au-Prince jail. This infuriated the population, which rose up against Sam's government as soon as news of the executions reached them.

Sam fled to the French embassy, where he received asylum. The rebels' mulatto leaders broke into the embassy and found Sam. They dragged him out and beat him senseless then threw his limp body over the embassy's iron fence to the waiting populace, who then ripped his body to pieces and paraded the parts through the capital's neighborhoods. (Wikipedia 2018b)

Woodrow Wilson, fearing an imminent German invasion of Haiti, ordered American troops to occupy the capital and then the entire country. The occupation was resisted by bands of guerillas called "cacos," who took up arms in the First Caco War (1916) and the Second Caco War (1918-1920). Some historians state that Germany aided the rebels, even to the point of creating a Caribbean front of the First World War. For instance, we read that "they [the rebels] received considerable support from the German government and entrenched German-Haitian elite" (Wikipedia 2018c). This seems doubtful, given the distance from Europe and American control of the sea lanes. The Second Caco War did receive support from the mulatto minority, particularly from exiled leader Rosalvo Bobo, being "another episode in the long struggle of the mulattoes against black rule" (Beede 1994, p. 83)

American occupation (1915-1934)

So Haiti became an American protectorate instead of a German one. Although the mulattoes benefited from the occupation, particularly from the political stability and the building of roads and other infrastructure, many remained its strongest opponents and, for this reason, sparked a renewal of Haitian nationalism. 

In the 1930s and 1940s blacks discovered unexpected allies in the many mulatto intellectuals who, shattered by their personal encounters with crude white racism, also sought meaning in their diluted African ancestry. [...] In belittling Africa and aping Europe, the elite had betrayed Haiti's millions. No more! declared the new nationalists. Internal racism must die, and favored Haitians must work with and on behalf of the suffering masses. But the first task was to rid Haiti of the invader. "Man, you are a stranger and you tread the soil that my father trod," wrote fiery mulatto writer Jacques Roumain.

Roumain and dozens of other nationalist writers were arrested time and time again, condemned by American courts-martial and sentenced to fines, imprisonment, and even hard labor. The result was a politicization of intellectuals, driven by persecution from poetry to pragmatic action. Roumain founded the Haitian Communist Party. Price-Mars and future nationalist President Sténio Vincent formed the Patriotic Union, attracting a membership of sixteen thousand that organized resistance to the occupation (Abbott 1988)

This renewal of Haitian nationalism took three forms: Catholic authoritarianism, black nationalism (noirisme), and Marxism.

Catholic authoritarianism

This political current was limited to the mulatto community, particularly those with a strong Catholic orientation. They looked to Catholic teachings of that time (corporatism, rejection of liberalism) with a view to rebuilding Haiti as an orderly society. Their examples were Mussolini in Italy, Franco in Spain, Pétain in France and, closer to home, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

Initially, Catholic authoritarianism was the most successful of the three competing forms of Haitian nationalism. It was in fact the dominant ideology after the American occupation, when Haiti was ruled by two strong-arm presidents: Sténio Vincent (1934-41) and Elie Lescot (1941-46). Supporters of Vincent, in particular, saw in him an authoritarian leader like those of Europe. In 1936, the president of the Club des amis du Président Vincent wrote:

Let us propagate and establish Vincentisme in order that, like fascism in Italy and Hitlerism in Germany, he becomes for us, Haitians, a school of civic-mindedness and loyalty; so that in his shadow and under his aegis, we may constitute a squad of men capable of perpetuating the regime of order, peace, and justice instituted by President Vincent. For our country to develop normally and progressively, we need in power for another quarter-century an entire succession of heads of state trained in the school of Vincentisme. (Péan 2015)

Neither Vincent nor Lescot left a lasting mark on Haitian society. As mulattoes, they lacked genuine support among the black majority and, more critically, among the largely black military. Furthermore, both had ties to Trujillo, who, in 1937, ordered the killing of some 15,000 to 20,000 black Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border. Meanwhile, Trujillo was seeking to whiten Dominican society through European immigration; even Jewish refugees and Spanish Republicans were welcome. Deep down, Vincent and Lescot shared Trujillo’s pro-European and anti-African bias. Among other things, they supported the efforts of the Church to root out Vodou and impose behavioral norms, such as monogamy, that were in fact European norms.

With the outbreak of WWII, the United States took an increasingly dim view of Vincent's authoritarian rule. To varying degrees he was an ideological kin to the Axis powers, especially Italy but also Vichy France, Hungary, and Croatia. In 1941, Roosevelt pressured him to step down and hand power over to Lescot, who adopted a more liberal style of governance. With the end of the war, Catholic authoritarianism disappeared throughout most of Europe, and Lescot's position became less tenable. Matters came to a head in 1946 when he jailed the Marxist editors of a student journal, an action that triggered a wave of student strikes and protests by government workers, teachers, and shopkeepers. He resigned, under pressure from the military.   

Black nationalism (noirisme)

In the late 1920s, many Haitian intellectuals embraced indigénisme and négritude as a means to protest the American opposition and also the elite's emulation of French culture and rejection of Haiti's African roots. Ironically, both movements were based in metropolitan France and owed much of their popularity to an interest in “Otherness,” bordering on exoticism, that was popular there during the interwar years. Even in Haiti itself these movements became known via French books and magazines, and their initial adherents were, more often than not, Francophile mulattoes. One of them was Jacques Roumain, who in 1927 founded La Revue Indigene: Les Arts et La Vie, a journal of Haitian art and culture. Initially a folklorist and anthropologist, he became more and more involved in politics.

Indigénisme was supported by another Haitian anthropologist, Jean-Price Mars. Like Roumain, he championed négritude and called for a rehabilitation of Haiti's African culture. In particular, he argued that vodou was a religion on a par with Christianity with its own deities, priesthood, theology, and morality. Unlike Roumain, he was black and never embraced Marxism (Wikipedia 2018e). Nonetheless, unlike the black nationalists, both of them simply wanted an honest assessment of Haitian culture that would equally acknowledge its African and French roots.

Noirisme went much farther than indigénisme:

Whatever the "Indigéniste School" had to say, the noiristes radicalized it completely. More than having a dual French and African past, Haiti had an "African element" which could only be directed by real, authentic Black Haitians, who were much closer to the poor and disenfranchised populace. Vodou was no longer an important religious expression among others; it was the supreme link between Haiti and Africa. Haiti not only had to be governed by Blacks to reflect the country's majority, it had to be governed by a charismatic and autocratic Black, since liberalism was a "White" political system. Haitians were thus entirely biologically determined to be the people that they were and the real enemies of the state were Mulattoes with their "mulâtrisme." (La Revue Indigène 2014)

The noiristes gained ground during the mid to late 1930s, in large part because the Vincent administration jailed, killed, or exiled so many of their Marxist rivals. Like Jacques Roumain, they wrote and published their ideas. Unlike him, however, they were never prosecuted, even though their ideas would have much more radical implications. Noirisme circulated especially via the pages of Les Griots, a “scientific and literary” journal co-founded in 1938 by a young François Duvalier.


In 1934, Jacques Roumain founded the Parti communiste haïtien (PCH), a small group made up overwhelmingly of mulatto intellectuals—a fact that black nationalists loved to point out. Mulattoes were attracted to Marxism partly out of idealism and partly because the noiristes wouldn't have them. The only other alternative was Catholic authoritarianism, and it lost its appeal with the outbreak of the Second World War.

1n 1936, with the end of the occupation, the Vincent administration disbanded the PCH and repeatedly prosecuted Roumain, eventually forcing him into exile. In New York City he conducted ethnographic research for Columbia University before he finally returned to Haiti upon Vincent's departure from office. In 1943, he founded the Bureau national d'ethnologie and went on to write a collection of poetry, a novel, and a paper on Haitian archaeology. A year later, at the age of 37, he died of either illness or poisoning (Wikipedia 2018d).

A doctrinaire Marxist, he considered class to be more important than race. Unlike many Marxists, however, he had a gift for speaking simply:

What are we? Since that's your question, I'm going to answer you. We're this country, and it wouldn't be a thing without us, nothing at all. Who does the planting? Who does the watering? Who does the harvesting? Coffee, cotton, rice, sugar cane, caco, corn, bananas, vegetables, and all the fruits, who's going to grow them if we don't? Yet with all that, we're poor, that's true. We're out of luck, that's true. We're miserable, that's true. But do you know why, brother? Because of our ignorance. (Wikipedia 2018d)

In 1946, Marxist parties were again permitted to exist, and two came into being: the PSP (Parti socialiste populaire) and the PCH (Parti communiste haïtien). The PSP, like the first PCH, had an overwhelmingly mulatto membership.

The philosophy of the PSP represented the most stark contrast to the noirisme of the other radical groups. The mostly elite intellectuals in the PSP privileged class struggle over color divisions as the most important threat to Haitian society. Like the PCH in the thirties, they argued that a reorientation of the polity based on color would not bridge the country's fundamental economic cleavage. Noirisme, for them, was a political weapon used by the black middle class to attain control of the country but promised little for the welfare of the poor. (Smith 2009, p. 87)

The new PCH, unlike the old one, drew its membership from the black middle class and was closer to noirisme. Its members considered the color question in Haiti to be an "essential aspect of the present class struggle in Haiti." "The PSP, they argued, evaded the color question because the party was largely milat and consequently feared the threat a black government might pose to their status" (Smith 2009, p. 87)

To be cont'd.


Abbott, E. (1988). Haiti. A Shattered Nation, London: Duckworth Overlook

Beede, B.R. (1994). The War of 1898 and U.S. Interventions 1898-1934. An Encyclopedia, New York: Garland Publishing.

Delisle, P. (2003). Le catholicisme en Haïti au XIXe siècle, Paris: Éditions Karthala.

La Revue Indigène (2014). Noirism in Haiti, December 29, 2014.

Péan, L. (2015). Haïti-1915/100 ans : L’occupation américaine et les Volontaires de la Servitude Nihiliste VSN, AlterPresse, January 8

Pena SDJ, Di Pietro G, Fuchshuber-Moraes M, Genro JP, Hutz MH, Kehdy FdSG, et al. (2011) The Genomic Ancestry of Individuals from Different Geographical Regions of Brazil Is More Uniform Than Expected. PLoS ONE 6(2): e17063.

Simms, T.M., C.E. Rodriguez, R. Rodriguez, and R.J. Herrera. (2010). The genetic structure of populations from Haiti and Jamaica reflect divergent demographic histories, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 142, 49-66.

Smith, M.J. (2009). Red & Black in Haiti. Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change 1934-1957, The University of North Carolina Press.

Sommers, J. (2016). Race, Reality, and Realpolitik. U.S.-Haiti relations in the lead up to the 1915 occupation, Lanham, Lexington Books.

Tinker, C.A. (1922). The American occupation of Haiti and Santo Domingo, The American Review of Reviews, 66(1), 46-60.

Wikipedia (2018a). 1804 Haitian Massacre.

Wikipedia (2018b). Vilbrun Guillaume Sam.

Wikipedia (2018c). United States occupation of Haiti.

Wikipedia (2018d). Jacques Roumain

Wikipedia (2018e). Jean-Price Mars

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Update: Women and red hair

The online magazine Evopsy has posted a summary, in French, of the paper on red hair that I wrote with Karel Kleisner and Jaroslav Flegr. It can be found here.

The online magazine Cultura VRN has posted a summary, in Russian, here.

Please let me know about any other magazines that might be interested in this topic.


Frost, P. (2018). Pыжая женщина – уникальна, Cultura VRN, January 15

Frost, P. (2018). La rousse est particulière, Evopsy, January 7

Frost P, Kleisner K, Flegr J (2017) Health status by gender, hair color, and eye color: Red-haired women are the most divergent. PLoS ONE 12(12): e0190238. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The people before the First Nations

Aeta woman (Philippines) – Wikipedia (Ken Llio)

Modern humans pushed out of Africa along two routes: a northern one through the Levant and into Europe and a southern one along the Indian Ocean coast and eventually into New Guinea and Australia. The southern route is said to have had two waves: an earlier one between 62,000 and 75,000 years ago that was ancestral to present-day Australian Aborigines and a later one between 25,000 and 38,000 years ago that was ancestral to present-day Negrito groups in Southeast Asia: the Andaman Islanders, the Semang of the Malayan Peninsula, and the Aeta of the Philippines, although these groups would have intermixed with the population already present from the first wave (Rasmussen et al. 2011; Reyes-Centeno et al. 2014).

Did this southern route end in Southeast Asia or did it swing north along the Pacific coast? We know that the Philippines was once inhabited by Negritos—the country still has over thirty such groups. In addition, there have been claims that a Negrito group used to live on Taiwan. In the early 20th century, the anthropologist Rolange Dixon argued that a Negrito population once occupied the whole of the South, Southeast, and East Asian littoral:

At this time the southern and eastern borderlands, from India around to Kamchatka, seem to have been occupied in the main by a dolichocephalic, dark-skinned, Negroid population which was a blend in varying proportions of the Proto-Australoid and Proto-Negroid types. There is some evidence which leads us to believe that this Negroid population extended farther westward than India, along the shores of the Persian Gulf and the southern coast of Arabia, so being continuous with the great area held by similar peoples in Africa. (Dixon 1923, p. 243)

In the late 20th century, interest declined in Negritos and their place in human prehistory, partly because anthropologists were increasingly taking an ahistorical approach hunter-gatherers and shunning anything that smacked of racial or evolutionary thinking. Though a student of Franz Boas, Dixon studied anthropology (1897-1906) at a time when Boas believed not only in the existence of human races but also in psychological differences between them, albeit in a statistical sense (Frost 2014, Frost 2015). Furthermore, genetic studies in the late 20th century seemed to show that different Negrito groups had little in common with each other. Clearly, Negritos are a very ancient population, and the time to the most recent ancestor for all of them is greater than it is for, say, present-day Europeans and present-day East Asians. They still look similar to each other only because they remained under similar climatic and cultural conditions.

Recent years have seen a renewal of interest in Negritos. Mitochondrial DNA studies have shown that they are indeed the remnants of a southern "Out of Africa" route, together with New Guineans and Australian Aborigines (Reyes-Centeno et al. 2014; Stoneking and Delfin 2010; Thangaraj et al. 2005). Of particular interest is the discovery of significant admixture from these peoples in Amerindians from Amazonia and the Central Brazilian Plateau (Skoglund et al. 2015). This admixture seems to be very old:

The genetic data allow us to say with confidence that Population Y ancestry arrived south of the ice sheets anciently: the fact that the geographically diverse Andamanese, Australian and New Guinean populations are all similarly related to this source suggests that the population is no longer extant, and the absence of long-range admixture linkage disequilibrium suggests that the population mixture did not occur in the last few thousand years.

As the authors note, this finding is consistent with ancient skeletal remains from the same region:

This discovery is striking in light of interpretations of the morphology of some early Native American skeletons, which some authors have suggested have affinities to Australasian groups. The largest number of skeletons that have been described as having this craniofacial morphology and that date to younger than ten thousand years have been found in Brazil6, the home of the Suruí, Karitiana and Xavante who in genetic data show the strongest affinity to Australasians.

How did this population reach the Amazonian basin? Perhaps the same way the Paleo-Amerindians did: across the Bering Strait and down through North America. If Negrito groups had reached south China and the Philippines, they could have continued up the East Asian shoreline and then down the west coast of North America. One problem with this model, raised by Greg Cochran and Steve Sailer, is that the "Australasian" admixture is absent from native North Americans. Keep in mind, however, that at least three waves of migration entered North America: the latest one corresponding to the Inuit-Aleut peoples, an earlier one corresponding to the Na-Dene peoples, and the earliest one corresponding to all other Amerindian groups. Only this earliest wave reached South America. There has consequently been much more population replacement among native North Americans than among native South Americans.

Population replacement is widely seen as something that has been done by European peoples (and, more recently, which is being done to them). In reality, the world was not a static place before Columbus. Human populations have been replacing each other for a very long time.


Cochran, G. (2018). Beringians, West Hunter, January 4

Dixon, R.B. (1923). The Racial History of Man, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Frost, P. (2014). The Franz Boas you never knew, Evo and Proud, July 13 

Frost, P. (2015). More on the younger Franz Boas, Evo and Proud, April 18

Rasmussen M, et al. (2011) An Aboriginal Australian genome reveals separate human dispersals into Asia, Science, 334(6052), 94-98.

Reyes-Centeno, H., S. Ghirotto, F. Détroit, D. Grimaud-Hervé, G. Barbujani, and K. Harvati. (2014). Genomic and cranial phenotype data support multiple modern human dispersals from Africa and a southern route into Asia, PNAS, 111(20), 7248-7253.

Sailer, S. (2018). Were There People Already in the New World When the Indians Arrived? The Unz Review, January 6

Skoglund, P., S. Mallick, M.C. Bortolini, N. Chennagiri, T. Hunemeier, M.L. Petzl-Erier, F.M. Salzano, N. Patterson, and D. Reich. (2015). Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas, Nature, 525, 104-108

Stoneking, M. and F. Delfin (2010). The Human Genetic History of East Asia: Weaving a Complex Tapestry, Current Biology, 20(4), R188-R193 

Thangaraj, K., G. Chaubey, T. Kivisild, A.G. Reddy, V.K. Singh, et al. (2005). Reconstructing the origin of Andaman Islanders, Science, 308(5724), 996

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Red-haired women are special

The Damsel of the Sanct Grael – Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

It's known that red-haired women, but not red-haired men, are more sensitive to pain. Red hair is also associated with a higher risk of developing endometriosis, Parkinson's disease, and decreased platelet function.

A study in the latest issue of PLoS One has confirmed that red hair, especially in women, is linked to certain health issues. According to a survey of over seven thousand participants, red-haired women do worse than other women in ten health categories and better in only three, being especially prone to colorectal, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer. Red-haired men seem to be as healthy as other men, doing better in three categories and worse in three. Reproductive success, i.e., number of children, is the only category where redheads of both sexes do better than other participants.

This study has also confirmed that red hair is naturally more frequent in women than in men. To a lesser degree, the same is true for blond hair and green eyes. These bright colors seem to result from a selection pressure that mainly targeted women, i.e., sexual selection. In other words, among early Europeans there were too many women and not enough men; hence, competition between women for mates favored those who could better catch the attention of men, such as through a palette of bright hair and eye colors.

Because women are overrepresented among redheads, it may be that estrogen promotes synthesis of red pigments by hair follicles, particularly during fetal development. Thus, if a baby is born red-haired and female, estrogenization of its body tissues should be, on average, near the top end of the normal range. It will therefore be more at risk of developing certain health issues.

Another hypothesis can be put forward. If red hair was the last hair color to evolve, the underlying alleles may not have finished adapting to the rest of the genome, and vice versa. This reciprocal adaptation is all the more necessary because one of the five alleles for red hair seems to be of Neanderthal origin. The hypothesis of incomplete adaptation does not exclude the hypothesis of high estrogenization. In fact, there may be interaction between the two factors. Although it's likely that sexual selection did produce new hair and eye colors, we must still explain why, in this palette of colors, red hair seems to show the greatest difference between men and women both in population frequency and in associated health effects. 


Frost P, Kleisner K, Flegr J (2017) Health status by gender, hair color, and eye color: Red-haired women are the most divergent. PLoS ONE 12(12): e0190238. 


La rousse est particulière

On sait que les rousses, mais pas les roux, sont plus sensibles que les autres à la douleur. La rousseur est également associée à un plus grand risque de développer l'endométriose, la maladie de Parkinson, ainsi que des troubles de l'agrégation plaquettaire.

Une étude publiée dans le dernier numéro de la revue PLoS ONE confirme que la rousseur, surtout chez la femme, est reliée à certains problèmes de santé. Selon une enquête menée auprès de plus de sept mille participants, les rousses se classent pire que les autres femmes dans dix catégories de santé et mieux dans seulement trois, étant surtout susceptibles de développer des cancers du gros intestin, du col utérin, de l'utérus ou des ovaires. Quant aux roux, leur état de santé ressemble à celui des autres hommes : mieux dans trois catégories et pire dans trois. Le succès reproducteur, soit le nombre d'enfants, est la seule catégorie où les têtes rouges des deux sexes font mieux que les autres participants.

Cette étude confirme également que la rousseur est naturellement plus fréquente chez la femme que chez l'homme. Dans une moindre mesure,  c'est le même constat avec la blondeur et les yeux verts. Ces couleurs vives semblent être le résultat d'une pression de sélection visant surtout la femme, soit la sélection sexuelle. Autrement dit, il y aurait eu trop de femmes et pas assez d'hommes chez les premiers Européens, avec pour résultat une concurrence entre les femmes favorisant celles qui attiraient mieux les regards des hommes, comme par exemple par une palette de couleurs vives décorant les cheveux et les yeux.

Les femmes étant surreprésentées parmi les têtes rouges, on peut émettre l'hypothèse que l'œstrogène favorise la synthèse de pigments rouges dans les follicules pileux, particulièrement au cours du développement fœtal. Alors, si un enfant nait à la fois roux et de sexe féminin, l'œstrogénisation de ses tissus organiques doit être, en moyenne, vers la limite supérieure de la normale. La rousse sera donc plus à risque de connaitre certains problèmes de santé.

Une autre hypothèse est possible. Si la rousseur a été la dernière couleur de cheveux à paraître, il se peut que les allèles sous-jacents n’aient pas encore fini de s'adapter au reste du génome et vice versa. Cette adaptation réciproque est d'autant plus nécessaire parce que l'un des cinq allèles pour la rousseur semble être d'origine néandertalienne. Notons que l'hypothèse d'adaptation incomplète n'exclut pas celle de forte œstrogénisation. En fait, il pourrait y avoir une interaction entre les deux facteurs. S'il est vraisemblable que la sélection sexuelle ait produit de nouvelles couleurs des cheveux et des yeux, il faudra toujours expliquer pourquoi, dans cette palette de couleurs, la rousseur semble montrer la plus grande différence entre les hommes et les femmes, autant en termes de fréquence dans la population que sur le plan de la santé. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Crisis of the 2020s

China's population pyramid. The crisis of the 2020s will be triggered in part by the end of cheap imports from China and the return of inflation.

New Year's 2021. Little seems to have changed over the past three years. Technologically, there are more smart devices to entertain you or to help you with your work. Economically, things are supposed to be better, but that's not your impression. Politically? Not much either. Most of eastern and central Europe has gone nationalist, but they always were, weren't they? There's Italy, where Berlusconi governs with two nationalist parties, but isn't that a rerun of what he finagled two decades earlier? Finally, North Africa is in the news, but no one seems to know what's going on there.

Yet something is afoot. A friend makes a remark he never would have before. He of all people! At the health club you try to follow the news on TV, but it seems harder to follow than usual. You're thinking of traveling abroad, but it's more complicated, supposedly because of the terrorist threat ...


The Crisis of the 2020s will not be readily apparent when the decade begins. Nationalist parties will be in power over most of Europe, but the Western European "core"—the United Kingdom, France, and Germany—will still be postnational. Yet even there nationalist parties will have made inroads at the regional and municipal levels. These electoral successes will be self-reinforcing, with one leading to another, especially in regions that are culturally and linguistically similar.

But this nationalist consensus will have to reckon with an opposing consensus that is already in place and likewise self-reinforcing. This postnational consensus took shape in the 1940s, when elites throughout the West blamed nationalism for the Second World War and the preceding depression. It grew stronger in the 1950s and 1960s with competition by the two superpowers for the hearts and minds of emerging nations in Asia and Africa. The Cold War had the perverse effect of making the United States and the Soviet Union mirror images of each other, each trying to preach its own universal gospel to the unconverted. 

This elite consensus entered a new phase with the end of the postwar boom in the 1970s and a slowdown in economic growth throughout the West. This slowdown has been attributed to several causes:

- The postwar boom was driven by low prices for raw materials, especially oil. In the 1970s oil prices spiked, as did prices for other key commodities.

- The postwar boom was also driven by population growth—the baby boom. Young adults spent more on housing, children's clothes, educational supplies, and other family-related purchases. They also became more willing to invest in the future, both personally and collectively, since they were literally investing in their children. During the 1960s fertility rates declined dramatically, and by the 1970s declines in school enrolment and household spending had become noticeable. 

- A backlog of technological innovation had piled up during the Great Depression and the Second World War. By the 1970s this backlog was largely gone.

- Thrift and saving had become ingrained during the depression and the war. By the 1970s the culture had shifted toward greater acceptance of living beyond one's means.

These causes should be viewed with some caution, since the slowdown happened across very different political and cultural contexts in North America, Western Europe, and Japan. It also happened in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Slow growth may simply be the historic norm, and economies return to this norm as they mature. In any case, policy makers are less interested in causes than they are in solutions, and to find solutions to slow growth they have consciously or unconsciously turned to postnational thinking for inspiration. 

A slowly growing economy isn't necessarily bad for the average person. Because population growth has likewise slowed throughout the West, economic growth, however sluggish, translates into more wealth per capita. Because companies can no longer count on a growing market, they have to compete much more with each other for market share, thus improving the quality of the goods and services they offer. They also have to compete for a limited supply of labor, thus bidding up wages and raising productivity through automation and robotization. Japan has taken that path, and it isn't doing so badly despite the doom and gloom one hears. Labor scarcity means that 74% of Japanese aged 15 to 65 have a paid job—well above the OECD average of 67%. Only 1.2% of Japan's labor force has been without work for a year or longer—below the OECD average of 2%. Also, Japanese life expectancy at birth is 84 years—well above the OECD average of 80 years.

Slow growth may not be bad news for the average person, but it is for the rentier class—those whose income comes not from work but from dividends, interest, and speculation. When economic growth falls to 2 or 3% a year, this becomes their return on investment. It's not enough to live on, at least not in the style they're used to.

The rentier class has thus pushed Western governments to make the economy grow faster than it normally would. Since the 1970s, growth has been spurred through financial stimuli of one sort or another: tax cuts, deficit spending, lower interest rates, and monetary expansion. This is still a popular response, but the shortcomings are now well-known. The immediate one is inflation—in the 1970s inflation rose to double digits throughout the West. It has since been contained by a mix of money supply management and globalization, i.e., outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries and insourcing low-wage labor for jobs that cannot be outsourced (agriculture, construction, services). In the U.S., massive low-wage immigration began with the Reagan amnesty of 1986, although this outcome was emphatically denied at the time. Upward pressure on wages has further slackened with the decline in unionization, itself largely a result of globalization, particularly the loss of jobs in manufacturing and the shift to less easily unionized jobs in services. Finally, immigration itself has been seen as a way to stimulate the economy through increased aggregate demand, particularly for real estate and construction.

While these stimulus measures help to spur growth over the short term, the outcome seems more dubious over the long term. Today, interest rates are at record low levels throughout the West, and immigration is running at record high levels—in the U.S., legal immigration alone is over three times what it was in the 1960s. Yet year-to-year economic growth is much lower: 1.6 to 2.5% in the 2010s versus 2.3 to 6.5% in the 1960s.

The economy seems to habituate to these stimulus measures. We thus have the apparent paradox of more and more stimulus producing less and less growth. This paradox has three causes:

- People take further growth for granted, particularly in their willingness to go into debt. Growth becomes a Ponzi scheme.

- Uninterrupted growth leads to accumulation of inefficiency. Without periodic recessions to remove wasteful companies and work practices, the economy becomes less productive.

- Sources of immigration have shifted to cultures that are less oriented to the market economy and to the values that make it possible. Historically, most economic growth has been within two culture areas: Europe, especially northwest Europe, and East Asia. These cultures are characterized by high levels of trust, high future orientation, and low willingness to use violence for personal disputes (Clark 2007; Clark 2009; Frost 2015; Frost 2017; Frost & Harpending 2015). Most immigrants to the West no longer come from either culture area. As a result, trust is declining, fear of violence is increasing, and more resources are being earmarked for external behavioral controls (police, private security), which are replacing the internal behavioral controls that used to be enough. Transactions now have to be double-checked for evidence of fraud, theft, or counterfeiting, with the result that economic activity costs more and in some cases is no longer worth doing.

For the near future, Western policy makers will continue to follow the postnational consensus, not so much because they believe in it but rather because they are immersed in it and have little exposure to alternate views. This echo chamber will, in fact, cause the prevailing consensus to become more radical over time. One example is the recent call from Canada's council of economic advisers for a sharp rise in immigration:

The 14-member council was assembled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau to provide "bold" advice on how best to guide Canada's struggling economy out of its slow-growth rut. 

One of their first recommendations, released last week, called for a gradual increase in permanent immigration to 450,000 people a year by 2021 — with a focus on top business talent and international students. That would be a 50-per-cent hike from the current level of about 300,000.

The council members — along with many others, including Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains — argue that opening Canada's doors to more newcomers is a crucial ingredient for expanding growth in the future. (Blatchford 2016)

This is the backdrop for the Crisis of the 2020s. On the one hand, the postnational consensus will continue to radicalize in the core countries of the Western world. On the other hand, a very different consensus will dominate most of central and eastern Europe, with inroads being made into France and Germany. These opposing consensuses will diverge more and more, if only because mutual antagonism will make dialogue impossible.

The crisis itself may be triggered by one or more factors:

- Inflation will return after a four decade absence. China's supply of cheap labor is drying up, and alternate sources, such as Africa, will prove unsuitable. Prices for certain commodities, especially food, may also rise. This will be pivotal because globalism has gone unchallenged among the elites largely because it has delivered on its promise of inflation-free growth.

- There will be a growing realization that the new migrants to Europe have a different work ethic. They will end up being tax consumers rather than, as hoped, tax payers. Forget about them paying for your pension and health care.

- The French presidential election of 2022 will be much closer than the one in 2017, the result being a narrow defeat or a narrow victory for the Front national. Either way, the country will become ungovernable. A similar situation may or may not develop in Germany after the 2021 federal election.

- NATO may try to intervene in one or more countries in eastern or central Europe.

The actual trigger will matter less than the instability of the world-system. This instability will cause even minor conflicts to escalate, either within the Western European core or, perhaps, in response to a failed intervention in Eastern Europe.

Such escalation will be demanded by those who support the postnational consensus, yet it will work to their detriment. A world-system is stable only if, as Wallerstein (1974) argued, it meets three conditions:

- Military strength is concentrated in core societies

- Ideological commitment to the system is pervasive, i.e., "the staff or cadres of the system (and I leave this term deliberately vague) feel that their own well-being is wrapped up in the survival of the system as such and the competence of its leaders. It is this staff which not only propagates the myths; it is they who believe them."

- Peripheral societies are unable to unite against core societies.

Conflict, especially armed conflict, will destroy the illusion that the postnational consensus is a consensus and thus the only sensible way of viewing reality. Uncertainty and disenchantment will spread even among "sensible" people. Furthermore, if military strength no longer remains concentrated in the core, being used, for example, to intervene in the periphery, there may not be enough people in uniform anymore to defend the entire world-system. Defeat in one country may lead to a chain reaction where one country after another defects to the other side.


Blatchford, A. (2016). Finance Minister's key advisers want 100M Canadians by 2100, October 23

Clark, G. (2009).The Domestication of Man: The Social Implications of Darwin, ArtefaCToS, 2, 64-80

Clark, G. (2007). A Farewell to Alms. A Brief Economic History of the World, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford.

Frost, P. (2017). The Hajnal line and gene-culture coevolution in northwest Europe, Advances in Anthropology, 7, 154-174.

Frost, P. (2015). Two Paths, The Unz Review, January 24

Frost, P. and H. Harpending. (2015). Western Europe, state formation, and genetic pacification, Evolutionary Psychology, 13, 230-243.

Wallerstein, I. (1974). The rise and future demise of the world capitalist system: concepts for comparative analysis, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 16(4), 387-415.