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Human Rights / Radio Haiti Archive | David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Durham, NC         

The Radio Haiti collection is perhaps the most thorough documentation of late 20th century Haitian politics and history, including but not limited to the Duvalier regime and its aftermath; the nascent democratic movement amid military rule under the Conseil National de Gouvernement in the late 1980s; the first presidency, overthrow, return, and second presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide; the aftermath of the 1991-1994 coup years during which Haiti’s democratically-elected government was in exile; and the first presidency of René Préval. Radio Haiti  spoke out against impunity, calling for justice for victims of human rights violations and political oppression as well as victims of corruption and corporate malfeasance. With his background as an agronomist, Jean Dominique focused in particular on the political and land rights of dispossessed peasant farmers and the need for Haiti to strengthen and support national agricultural production. Radio Haiti advocated for freedom of the press and documented repression of the independent media, covered grassroots organizations and women’s rights campaigns. Radio Haiti covered international relations, including the plight of undocumented Haitian refugees fleeing to the United States or the Bahamas (so-called “boat people”), Haitian cane-cutters in the Dominican Republic and repatriations of Haitian people from the Dominican Republic, US policy toward Haiti and US involvement in Haitian politics, neoliberal reform and structural adjustment policies. Radio Haiti promoted and showcased Haitian art and culture, including painting and sculpture, literature, poetry, theatre, music, history, and national heritage. They highlighted Vodou as a meaningful and important part of national culture worthy serious analysis. The station focused extensively on key moments of repression and injustice, such as the 1987 Jean Rabel massacre of peasant farmers and the 1994 Raboteau massacre of Aristide partisans by the military and FRAPH paramilitary, and important assassinations and disappearances, including the hired killing of Radio Haiti’s own director, Jean Léopold Dominique, in 2000.

Radio Haiti afforded as much consideration and airtime to the voices and concerns of peasant farmers from rural Haiti, members of grassroots organizations, Haitian braceros living on Dominican bateys, and residents of poor urban neighborhoods as it did to prominent politicians and intellectuals. By reporting largely in Haitian Creole, the language that all Haitians speak and understand, Radio Haiti made media and communication truly democratic, and showed Creole could be a language of serious political and intellectual inquiry.

The Radio Haiti collection was acquired as part of the Human Rights Archive. The project is funded through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Council on Library and Information Resources.

Laura Wagner, Ph.D. is the Radio Haiti project archivist, responsible for describing the collection and making it available in English, Haitian Creole, and French.  

Nou toujou la! The Digital (After-)Life of Radio Haïti-Inter (by Laura Wagner)

What happens when a major US academic library meets the single most important archive of twentieth-century Haitian history? What happens when traditional archival practice brushes up against a massive non-English audio collection? What happens when an institution with an emphasis on preservation and research vows to create a multilingual digital archive that is truly accessible, first and foremost, to Haitian people in Haiti? This essay explores the goals, methods, challenges, and meanings of the Radio Haiti archive project.

Radio Haiti Archives on Soundcloud

A small, curated sample of Radio Haiti audio on Soundcloud.

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