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This lesson is an online supplement to the curriculum unit The Haitian Revolution.

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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.


See below


Interviews with two Brown University scholars provide the core content of this lesson.

Student Handout

Video–Patrick Sylvain

Filmed on January 21, 2010 (see bio)


What are the long-term effects of the earthquake on Haiti?

How did the U.S. respond to Haitian independence?

How did French colonialism affect Haiti?


Audio–Anthony Bogues

Recorded via telephone on January 22, 2010 (see bio)




Exploring the Current Crisis

"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

Recommended sequence of audio and video clips

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Additional Resources

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.