Monday, May 30, 2022

History of Haiti; history of journalism

Things you can learn on Twitter:  The New York Times recently published a long and powerful analysis of how the preservation of Haitian independence in the early nineteenth century obliged its new black-majority government to accept a punishing regime of huge reparations to former slave-owners, debts that continued into the twentieth century. The payments, argue, crippled the Haitian economy for generations and helped drive the state into its seemingly permanently impoverished situation.

Powerful story -- but one that produced a wave of Twitter pushback. Historians, many of them Haitian, who have written extensively about this for decades, had even sent the Times journalists to the experts and archives they needed -- only to have the journalists declare they were presenting "a story rarely taught or acknowledged." They have been a little irritated, let us say, that only mention of historians in the story is a claim that "leading historians" have declared the Times story entirely new and entirely the work of journalists. 

The New York Times spent months sifting through thousands of pages of original government documents, some of them centuries old and rarely, if ever, reviewed by historians.


I read that NYT story on Haiti last night and literally LOLed when they said "historians had never" explored the topic. Ridiculous.  @lmacthompson1
The NYT hasn’t dug this up themselves, and they appear to have been quite light (understatement) in their crediting of Haitians and historians of Haiti. And also, now far more people will know something that France has wanted to remain obscure.  @cfryar
I think it's good that the NYT is publishing this. I think it's important to know that Haitians and scholars of Haiti have been screaming about it for generations.  @nanjala1

(The blogging software I use and Twitter seem to be at odds again, otherwise I'd embed these tweets properly.) 

The Times has now produced a 5400 word bibliography of sources, "to give credit to historians and researchers whose work formed essential building blocks for our stories," and crediting "hundreds of books and articles" that underpin the story. But that's hardly the message in the story itself.

D'ya ever think people who shout "it's not in the history books" probably don't read history books much?

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