Caste, Class and Colour in Haiti

  • David Nicholls
Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


In 1968, some 20 000 feet above the Caribbean Sea, I found myself sitting next to a fairly well-known Haitian exile. I mentioned to him that I had recently seen the venerable Dr Jean Price Mars, who appeared remarkably vigorous for his 90-odd years. The exiled Haitian was particularly concerned about the physical health of Price Mars, and expressed surprise that I had not heard that he had been ‘beaten up by the tontons macoutes’. I was somewhat sceptical about the story, not least because of my doubts about the ability of the macoutes to beat up a man of over ninety without killing him. A subsequent visit to Haiti confirmed that the story was untrue. It was Price Mars’s Open Letter to Dr René Piquion on the colour question in Haiti and the hostile review it had received in the press from the minister of the interior,1 together with the unconnected search by police for a criminal who was thought to be hiding near Price Mars’s, Pétionville home, which had led to the story.


Caste System Black Middle Class Free Black Haitian Woman Black Elite 
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Notes and References

  1. 11.
    H. Courlander and R. Bastien, Religion and Politics in Haiti and David Nicholls ‘Politics and Religion in Haiti’, Canadian Journal of Political Science, 3:3, 1970, pp. 400f. For a brief discussion of voodoo see below pp. 212f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 16.
    O.C. Cox, Caste Class and Race. This is an important and interesting study, but there is, I think, no need to adopt such a narrow definition of the term ‘caste’. A similar position is maintained on this question by L. Dumont in ‘Caste, racisme et “stratification” ‘, Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie, no. 29, 1960, pp. 91f.Google Scholar
  3. 17.
    Report of the President’s Commission for the Study and Review of Conditions in the Republic of Haiti, p. 19. On the middle class in Haiti see C. Pressoir ‘étude sur la classe moyenne à Port-au-Prince’, Revue de la Société d’Histoire et de Géographie d’Haïti, 21, 1950 pp. If; S. and J. Comhaire Sylvain, ‘Urban Stratification in Haiti’, Social and Economie Studies, 8:2, 1959, pp. 179f.Google Scholar
  4. M. de Young, ‘Class Parameters in Haitian Society’, Journal of Interamerican Studies, 1:4, 1959, pp. 449f; L. Paret-Limardo ‘Les Classes moyennes en Haïti’, in The Development of a Middle Class in Tropical and Sub-Tropical Countries M. Sylvain Bouchereau, ‘La classe moyenne en Haïti’ in T. Crevenna, Materiales para el estudio de la clase media en la America Latina’, pp. 67f.Google Scholar
  5. R. Wingfield and V. J. Parenton, ‘Glass Structure and Glass Conflict in Haitian Society’, Social Forces, 43:3, 1965, pp. 338f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 20.
    Maurice de Young is thus wrong when he asserts that the cacos were recruited from the lowest class of landless labourers, ‘Class Parameters’, p. 450. On the social composition of the cacos see F.D. Légitime,’ souvenirs historiques 1867–70’, Revue de la Société de Législation, 2 décembre 1907, p. 138. For general literature on peasant life in Haiti see Paul Moral Le Paysan Haïtien, M. A. Lubin ‘Quelques aspects des communautés rurales d’Haïti’, América Latina, 5:1, 1962, pp. 3f; H. Courlander The Drum and the Hoe Google Scholar
  7. R. Bastien ‘Haitian Rural Family Organisation’, Social and Economic Studies, 10:1961, pp. 478f; M. J. Herskovits Life in a Haitian Valley Google Scholar
  8. A. Métraux, ‘Les Paysans haïtiens’, Présence Africaine, no. 12, 1951, pp. 112f.; J. Price Mars, Ainsi parla l’oncle Mats Lundahl, Peasants and Poverty: a Study of Haiti.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    J. Casimir, ‘Aperçu sur la structure sociale d’Haïti’, America Latina, 8:3, 1965, pp. 40f.Google Scholar
  10. 26.
    Roger Dorsainville ‘1946 ou le délire opportuniste’, Nouvelle Optique, nos. 6 and 7, 1972, pp. 117f.Google Scholar
  11. David Nicholls, ‘Ideology and Political Protest in Haiti, 1930–1946’, Journal of Contemporary History, 9:4, 1974, pp. 3f.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 27.
    David Nicholls, ‘Embryo-Politics in Haiti’, Government and Opposition, 6:1, 1971, pp. 75f. and From Dessalines to Duvalier, ch. 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© David Nicholls 1985

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  • David Nicholls

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