881,500 (2011 U.S. Census)
|Regions with significant populations|
|South Florida metropolitan area, Orlando, New York City, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.|
|English, French, Haitian Creole|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism
with considerable adherents of
Protestantism · Mormonism · Jehovah's Witnesses.
|Related ethnic groups|
|Haitians, Latin Americans|
Haitian Americans (French: haïtien américain) (Haitian Creole: ayisyen ameriken) are Americans of Haitian descent. The largest proportion of Haitians live in South Florida counties and cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston.
In 2009 the US Census estimated that there are 830,000 Haitian Americans living in the U.S. During the early 1960s and the 1970s, many Haitians emigrated to the U.S. legally as well as illegally during the family dictatorships of François "Papa Doc" and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.
During the 18th century, the French colony of Saint-Domingue was the richest in the Caribbean, due to its massive production of sugar cane. This wealth was concentrated in the hands of a small minority of planters, who used slave labor of Sub-Saharan African origin to harvest their crops. Beginning in 1791, slaves (who formed about 90 percent of the population) revolted against their masters and succeeded in forcing France to abolish slavery.
When France attempted later to reintroduce slavery, the former slaves again revolted and won their independence in 1804 as the Republic of Haiti. The rebellion proved disruptive to the country's economy, however, as it spurred an exodus of wealthy colonists, both white and non-white. Many of these emigrated to the United States, particularly to the New Orleans region where they augmented the existing French-speaking population. Though France was another major destination for many immigrants, the United States was a much more popular destination.
While the earliest emigrants from Haiti tended to be from the upper classes, persistent conditions of poverty, as well as political unrest, eventually prodded many lower-class Haitians to emigrate as well. Altogether, there have been four periods of major migration to the United States in the history of Haiti: the initial wave at the turn of the 19th century, the U.S. occupation, the Duvalier regime, and the overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Between 1957 and 1986, when the Duvaliers ruled Haiti, the political persecution that Haitians suffered caused many Haitian professionals, the middle class, and students emigrated to others countries. Haitians sought political asylum or permanent resident status in many countries such as the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, France, Dominican Republic and Canada (primarily Montreal). Between 1977 and 1981, 60,000 Haitians landed in South Florida, many of them settling to the neighborhood of Little Haiti.
In the late 20th century, there was also a significant brain drain from Haiti as thousands of Haitian doctors, teachers, social workers and entrepreneurs moved from Haiti to New York and Miami. Haitians also began working in restaurants and music stores. In 1986, 40,000 Haitians who came to the United States seeking political asylum achieved permanent resident status. In 1991, there was another wave of Haitian boat people. However, under the government of Bill Clinton, many were not allowed to reach the shores of the United States. They were either detained and/or sent back to Haiti. Between 1995 and 1998, 50,000 Haitians obtained temporary legal status.
Political strife, marked with corruption, and intimidation led to many Haitians leaving the island for an opportunity of a better life. In addition, vast disparities between the Haitian wealthy elite and the poor originated in Haiti and continue to exist for many Haitian Americans in the United States.Waves of Haitians made it to the shores of Florida seeking asylum. Most of the foreign-born Haitians arrived during the 1970s. Haitian immigration to United States started with the exodus of most French settlers in Haiti.
Today, Florida has the largest number of people of Haitian heritage. In 2000, Florida had 182,224 foreign-born Haitians, 43.5% of the total foreign-born population from Haiti (excluding the number of American-born Haitians). New York had the second largest population of foreign-born Haitians with 125,475, approximately 30%. Haitian illegal immigrants attempting to reach the shores of Florida are routinely swept up by the United States Coast Guard and often repatriated. This has led to many civil rights group protests regarding the treatment they receive, in contrast to the asylum granted (see: wet feet, dry feet policy) to their Cuban counterparts.
Language and religion
Most Haitian immigrants who have traveled to the United States (particularly the more recent individuals) communicate in Haitian Creole and are either familiar with, or learn English. In Haiti, although French is an official language that is widely spoken and understood, most Haitians speak Creole (which is influenced by both French and West African languages) in their daily lives. Most descendants of Haitians and Haitian immigrants living in America speak English fluently.
Religiously, most Haitian Americans, like their counterparts in Haiti, are Roman Catholics. There are also smaller Protestant and Mormon communities of Haitian Americans. A significant population of Haitian American Jehovah's Witnesses also exist. Some individuals practice the faith of Vodoun, either in combination with Christianity or separately. Religion is very important in the life of Haitian Americans.
Adjustment and communities
The Haitians that emigrated to the United States brought many of their cultural practices and ideologies into their communities. Many foreign-born Haitians go into the business sector, often setting up their own businesses. This includes the establishment of barbershops and individually owned restaurants (predominately of Haitian cuisine).
Haitian Americans have a visible cultural presence in Little Haiti, Miami, and several nearby communities, such as Golden Glades and North Miami. Other significant Haitian-American communities are found in several neighborhoods of New York City, such as Flatbush (Nostrand), East Flatbush, Queens Village, Springfield GardensLaurelton, Park Slope, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Harlem, Cambria Heights, Rosedale and Canarsie of Brooklyn and Elmont, Long Island, have a significant Haitian American influence.
The Mattapan section of Boston is considered the main center of Haitians in the city. Growing Haitian communities have also formed in smaller cities in the Northeast especially Providence, Rhode Island. Haitian influence is sometimes marked by the everyday conversations between people in Haitian Creole on the streets. Second-generation Haitian Americans are generally more successful in terms of higher-paying occupations, and significantly better off in terms of level of education. Several Haitian-Americans have become professional athletes, mostly in the National Football League.
Since the 1980s, a new generation of young Haitian immigrants and Haitian immigrant children have populated the nation’s schools and communities, proving to be the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse segment of America’s child population. These Haitian (American) youth are very diverse in the ways that they identify with Haiti and participate within their different communities.
These youth vary between those who were born of immigrant parents, those who immigrated as small children, those who moved recently due to extreme factors (such as the 2010 earthquake), and those who have simply come to attend colleges and Universities. Many scholars refer to these Haitian youth as the “new second generation.” These scholars argue that the process of claiming an identity (or identity formation) among Haitian youth can be attributed to many different factors including first generation modes of adaption, parental socio-economic status, length and place of residency, certain social constructions of a pluralistic American society (such as racism), as well as others.
Education is a significant factor in the lives of Haitian American youth, particular as many aspire towards certain professions like medicine and law that will enable them to give back to their communities. It is important to note that many Haitian youth that immigrate have been trained in top Haitian middle schools, high schools, and colleges that aptly prepare them for such pursuits. Because of this, many Haitian youth come to the United States just to matriculate on to college. (See Harvard University’s Haitian Student Association for an example of a strong group of Haitian American and Haitian students who take pride in their culture while attending University). In other cases, parents who do not have access to these schools in Haiti may move to the United States to offer their children better opportunities.
Finally, Haitian American youth creatively express themselves in different ways. For many, creative expression allows a certain connection to home (to Haiti) that keeps them bound to their roots and allows them to maintain a sense of pride for their country while abroad. This expression includes speaking the language (Haitian Creole) in friend circles and in places such as home and church. It also includes cooking traditional Haitian food, following Haitian music and musicians, and participating in Haitian styles of dance. These aspects of creative expression allow Haitian youth to maintain a strong tie to their Haitian communities that, while informed by an American experience, also adds elements and nuances to American culture.
High percentages of Haitian ancestry by community
The 36 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Haitian ancestry are:
|23.0%||Spring Valley||New York|
|19.9%||North Miami Beach||Florida|
|11.3%||New Cassel||New York|
|10.8%||North Valley Stream||New York|
|7.6%||South Nyack||New York|
|6.4%||Asbury Park||New Jersey|
High percentages of Haitian birth by community
The 100 U.S. communities with the most residents born in Haiti are:
- Pompano Estates, Florida 26.6%
- North Miami, Florida 24.3%
- Golden Glades, Florida 24.1%
- Kendall Green, Florida 21.2%
- Tedder, Florida 20.9%
- Pinewood, Florida 18.5%
- Bonnie Loch-Woodsetter North, Florida 16.6%
- Spring Valley, New York 16.4%
- Loch Lomond, Florida 15.6%
- Hillcrest, Queens 14.7%
- El Portal, Florida 14.0%
- North Miami Beach, Florida 13.8%
- Melrose Park, Florida 11.5%
- Lauderdale Lakes, Florida 11.2%
- Belle Glade Camp, Florida 10.7%
- Immokalee, Florida 10.5%
- Delray Beach, Florida 10.3%
- Lake Park, Florida 10.1%
- Belle Glade, Florida 10.1%
- Naples Manor, FL 9.6%
- Leisureville, FL 9.1%
- Ives Estates, FL 9.1%
- New Cassel, NY 9.0%
- Biscayne Park, FL 8.8%
- Twin Lakes, FL 8.7%
- Norland, FL 8.5%
- Pine Hills, FL 8.4%
- Orange, NJ 8.4%
- Lake Worth, FL 8.1%
- Irvington, NJ 8.1%
- Westview, FL 8.0%
- Oak Ridge, FL 7.8%
- North Valley Stream, NY 7.8%
- Elmont, NY 7.6%
- South Nyack, NY 7.1%
- Lantana, FL 6.4%
- Boynton Beach, FL 6.4%
- Lauderhill, FL 6.4%
- Wilton Manors, FL 6.4%
- Miami Shores, FL 6.2%
- Mangonia Park, FL 6.2%
- Roselle, NJ 6.2%
- East Garden City, NY 5.9%
- Fort Lauderdale, FL 5.9%
- Uniondale, NY 5.8%
- Nyack, NY 5.8%
- Asbury Park, NJ 5.6%
- Ramapo, NY 5.4%
- Collier Manor-Cresthaven, FL 5.3%
- Fort Pierce, Florida 5.3%
- Oakland Park, Florida 5.3%
- Westgate-Belvedere Homes, FL 5.3%
- Whitfield, FL[disambiguation needed] 5.2%
- Broadview-Pompano Park, FL 5.2%
- North Lauderdale, Florida 5.1%
- Randolph, Massachusetts 4.9%
- Pompano Beach, FL 4.8%
- St. Leo, FL 4.8%
- Lake Forest, FL 4.5%
- Scott Lake, FL 4.4%
- Inwood, FL 4.4%
- Golden Gate, FL 4.3%
- Wyandanch, NY 4.3%
- Breckinridge Center, KY 4.3%
- Seminole Manor, FL 4.2%
- South Floral Park, NY 4.1%
- Lakeview, NY 4.0%
- Miramar, FL 4.0%
- Wheatley Heights, NY 3.9%
- Miami, FL 3.9%
- Brockton, MA 3.9%
- Fort Myers, FL 3.8%
- Lake Belvedere Estates, FL 3.8%
- Pine Manor, FL 3.7%
- Pompano Beach Highlands, FL 3.7%
- Andover, FL 3.7%
- East Orange, NJ 3.6%
- West Little River, FL 3.5%
- West Palm Beach, FL 3.5%
- Maplewood, NJ 3.4%
- Rodney Village, DE 3.3%
- Pomona, NY 3.2%
- Northwest Dade, FL 3.2%
- Pembroke Park, FL 3.2%
- Baldwin, NY 3.1%
- Naranja, FL 3.1%
- Florida City, Florida 3.2%
- Miami Gardens, Broward County, FL 3.1%
- Lake Worth Corridor, FL 3.0%
- Pine Castle, FL 3.0%
- Homestead, FL 3.0%
- St. George, FL 3.0%
- Pleasantville, NJ 3.0%
- West Haverstraw, NY 2.9%
- Nanuet, NY 2.8%
- Roosevelt, NY 2.8%
- Deerfield Beach, FL 2.8%
- East Perrine, FL 2.8%
- Linden, NJ 2.7%
- Everett, MA 2.7%
- "Total ancestry categories tallied for people with one or more ancestry categories reported 2010 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
- Felix Eme Unaeze and Richard E. Perrin. "A Countries and Their Cultures: Haitian Americans". Countries and their cultures. Retrieved December 26, 2011, to 18:19 pm.
- Butterfield, Sherri-Ann P.. “‘We’re Just Black’: The Racial and ethnic identities of second generation West Indians in New York By.” In Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation, edited by Kasinitz, Philip, John H. Mollenkopf, and Mary C. Waters, 288-312. New York: Russell Sage, 2004.
- Zéphir, Flore. Trends in Ethnic Identification among Second-generation Haitian Immigrants in New York City. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 2001.
- Zhou, Min. "Growing up American: The Challenge Confronting Immigrant Children and Children of Immigrants." Annual review of sociology (1997): 63-95.
- Kasinitz, Philip, John H. Mollenkopf, and Mary C. Waters. Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation. New York: Russell Sage, 2004. Also see: Waters, Mary C. "Ethnic and Racial Identities of Second-Generation Black Immigrants in New York City." International Migration Review (1994): 795-820. Also see: Waters, Mary C.. “The Intersection of Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in Identity Development of Caribbean American Teens.” In Urban Girls: Resisting Stereotypes, Creating Identities, edited by Leadbeater, Bonnie J. Ross, and Niobe Way, 65-84. New York: New York UP, 1996.
- Schmid, Carol L. "Educational Achievement, Language-Minority Students, and the New Second Generation." Sociology of Education (2001): 71-87.
- Desir, Charlene. “Lot Bo Dlo: Across Waters.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2006.
- "Ancestry Map of Haitian Communities". Epodunk.com. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
- "The 101 cities with the most residents born in Haiti (population 500+)". city-data.com. Retrieved 2008-08-04.