This lesson is an online supplement to the curriculum unit The Haitian Revolution.
* Required Fields
Teaching with the News
The Haitian Crisis: Thinking Historically
This lesson was developed in January 2010 to challenge students to think beyond the earthquake and consider the role of Haiti's rich history in the current crisis.
In this lesson students will:
- Identify the immediate and long-term effects of the January 12, 2010 earthquake on Haiti.
- Consider Haiti's role in world history.
- Examine the relationship between Haiti’s history and current conditions.
Interviews with two Brown University scholars provide the core content of this lesson.
Filmed on January 21, 2010 (see bio)
Recorded via telephone on January 22, 2010 (see bio)
Exploring the Current Crisis
- Write the question “Why has the earthquake been so catastrophic for Haiti?” on the board. Have students brainstorm the effects of the earthquake and the challenges facing Haiti in its aftermath. What devastation has the earthquake caused? Why is Haiti ill-equipped to deal with the disaster on its own? What are the implications for Haiti’s future? If students need extra prompting, show them one of the online photo galleries provided below. As students brainstorm, generate a list of the effects and challenges of the earthquake on the board. Then play the audio of Professor Bogues "What has been the effect of the earthquake on Haiti?" and the video of Professor Sylvain "What are the long-term effects of the earthquake on Haiti?". What additional effects and challenges do the scholars identify?
- After students have explored the catastrophic effects, ask them to consider their own sense of responsibility and the global community's responsibility to respond to the crisis. Why should we care? How may we show that we care?
- In the course of this discussion have students listen to Professor Bogues’ response to the question "Why should high school students care about the current situation in Haiti?" and debrief his response. According to Professor Bogues, what does real compassion mean? Do students agree or disagree? Why? You may want to write the quote that Professor Bogues refers to on the board:
"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."
—Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967
Considering Haiti’s History
- Professor Bogues challenges students to consider the historical forces that have made Haiti poor. Let students know that in the remainder of the class period, they will get an introduction to some key elements in Haitian history and consider Haiti's role in world history.
- Distribute the handout and inform students that they will be listening to and viewing experts on Haitian history and culture. Not all of the information is presented chronologically, therefore part of the students’ task is to track the events and place them in historical context. As they listen, students should use the handout to record important events in Haitian history.
Recommended sequence of audio and video clips
- How did French colonialism affect Haiti?
- Audio–What are some of the historical reasons for Haiti’s poverty?
- How did the U.S. respond to Haitian independence?
- Audio–What has been Haiti’s historical relationship to other countries?
Note to Teachers
- You may either choose to do this as a class, or have students work in small groups. Your decision will probably depend on the availability of technology.
- We strongly advise previewing each clip to determine the sequence that works best for your classroom.
- This lesson is intended to be an introduction to Haitian history, and may be used as a stepping stone to further inquiry.
Debriefing: Connecting Past and Present
After students have shared what they learned about Haitian history from the video and audio clips, challenge them to consider Haiti’s role in world history and the relationship between Haiti’s past and its present situation. To open this discussion, have students listen to Professor Bogues’ response to "Why is it important to think historically about the Haitian crisis?" and reflect on the following questions:
- Both Professor Bogues and Professor Sylvain talk about Haiti’s significant role in world history. According to both, how has this island nation shaped the course of world history?
- Professor Bogues stated that Haiti’s poverty is “man-made.” Now that you have learned a little about Haiti’s history, explain some of the historical forces contributing to Haiti’s poverty.
- Taking into consideration this historical perspective on Haiti, how should the global community respond to the Haitian crisis? Does the United States have a particular responsibility to provide assistance and if so, what form should that assistance take?
NPR Photographers Cover Haiti (National Public Radio)
This is a photo gallery of current events in Haiti.
Haiti Earthquake Multimedia (New York Times)
This site provides videos, photographs and interactive features documenting events in Haiti after a powerful earthquake devastated the country on January 12, 2010.