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Freedom in the Black Diaspora: A Resource Guide for Ayiti Reimagined

Haitian Creole

Étienne Polveral and Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, authors. Proclamation. In the Name of the Republic. We, Etienne Polverel and Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, Civil Officers of the Republic, Whom the French Nation Sent to this Country to Establish Law and Order. 1793. World Digital Library.

Although Haiti has two official languages, Haitian Creole and French, everyone in Haiti speaks Haitian Creole. Some scholars estimate that approximately 90-95% of the population is monolingual, speaking Haitian Creole.

Haitian Creole emerged as a contact language and as a form of African resistance against slavery in the colony of Saint-Domingue during the 17th and 18th centuries. French colonial authorities understood that the language spoken by the majority of the population in Saint-Domingue, which was not French, was important. Haitian Creole translations of public legal declarations the French issued to Haitians serve as evidence of the historical significance of this language.

Among the earliest such documents are the 1793 Proclamation au nom de la République issued by Etienne Polverel and Léger-Félicité Sonthonax and the declaration A tout zabitans Saint-Domingue (or Aux Habitans de Saint-Domingue) signed by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802. Researchers can find a copy of A tout zabitans Saint-Domingue in Textes anciens en créole français de la Caraïbe: Histoire et analyse by Marie-Christine Hazaël-Massieux (Paris: Éditions Publibook, 2008).

Scholars consider the poem Lisette quitté la plaine to be the earliest text written in Haitian Creole, dating to approximately 1757. Other notable works include Frankétienne’s Dézafi, the first novel written and published in Haitian Creole, Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Ti difé boulé sou istoua Ayiti, which is an account of the Haitian Revolution, and Madeleine Paillère’s novel Inselbadjo.

This page is a starting point for researchers to find audio, print, and visual materials in Haitian Creole.

The following resources were created by subject specialists at the Library of Congress.

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Featured Event Video

As part of the 2019 National Book Festival, Edwidge Danticat, a prominent Haitian-American writer, discussed her new book, "Everything Inside: Stories." (Event date: September 24, 2019)

Additional Event Videos