Duvalier (1907-1971), François

Date: 
27 June, 2008

President of Haiti from October 22, 1957 to April 21, 1971.

First trained as a physician, François Duvalier became an ethnologist with the guidance of Lorimer Denis, a voodoo specialist, who facilitated his admission to the Bureau d’Ethnologie (Ethnological Bureau), which later became the Faculté d’Ethnologie d’Haiti (Ethnology College of Haiti). Duvalier then developed a doctrine based on authenticity and on a racial definition of the nation. During this period, he turned to politics and won the September 22, 1957 presidential election. He then became known as Papa Doc. He established a regime that survived his death of natural causes on April 21, 1971; his son Jean-Claude (known as Baby Doc) then succeeded him.

Armed with a political doctrine and a national project called noirisme (“Blackism”), Duvalier instrumentalized the opposition between Blacks and Mulattos, designating the latter as illegitimate members of the nation and exploiters of the Black masses. Vast sectors of the Black petty bourgeoisie and urban middle classes supported him, at least at the beginning of his career (Trouillot, 1990: 134). Under the regime of terror set up by Duvalier, political opponents and their families were exterminated, fear was instilled in the whole population and intellectual elites were forced into exile, decreasing the general educational level of Haitian society. While in 1959, Haiti had enjoyed a GDP per capita roughly equal to those of the Dominican Republic and South Korea, the economic standing of the country then collapsed to the point that Haiti became the poorest country in the American hemisphere under this regime.

Cite this item

Belleau Jean-Philippe, Duvalier (1907-1971), François, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on: 27 June, 2008, accessed 13/11/2019, https://www.sciencespo.fr/mass-violence-war-massacre-resistance/en/document/duvalier-1907-1971-francois, ISSN 1961-9898