What Is the Ethnic Composition of the Haitian Population?

Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti.
Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti.

Haiti is a Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. The Spanish were the first Europeans to settle on Hispaniola, led by Christopher Columbus in December 1492. The Spanish settled on the eastern side of the island, which is currently the Dominican Republic. French explorers arrived shortly thereafter, and settled on the western part of the island that is now Haiti.

Historically, the indigenous population of Haiti were the Taino people. However, the spread of European diseases killed most of the Taino population, and the few who escaped disease became slaves of the early French settlers. Given the harsh living and working conditions, the Taino people were wiped out completely within a generation or two.

Since the French did not have enough labor to work the sugar plantations, they imported slaves from Africa. Eventually, the African population became large and fought for their independence. Under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, Africans gained independence, and most of the European population either died or were evicted. Therefore, the majority of Haiti's population are of African ancestry.

Today, over 90% of the Haitians are of Sub-Saharan African origin. According to the World Bank, Haiti’s population was approximately 10.85 million in 2016. There are two major languages spoken in Haiti: Creole and French. French is the official language, however most Haitians speak Creole.

Ethnic Composition of Haiti

Most of the Haitian population is made up of black Africans. However, many other ethnic groups have inhabited the land and continue to impact its growth. These ethnic groups include Poles, Jews, Italians, Arabs, Chinese, Indians, French, Spanish, and Germans. Most of these groups have intermarried with the blacks, leading to another group known as the mulattoes. Although Haiti’s official language is French, the country is not considered a Francophone nation, since most of the population speaks Creole, rather than French. Africans in Haiti make of 95% of the population, while the other ethnic groups constitute of only 5%.

African Ethnic Groups in Haiti

A large percentage of Haitians are of African descent. Sadly, colonial slave masters did not keep proper records regarding the origins of African slaves. However, through genetic testing, most Haitians can trace their ancestry to three West Coast African Nations: Benin, Congo, and Nigeria. Thus, slavery played a significant role in the ethnic composition of the Haiti nation. As part of the Americas, it is unlikely for anyone to guess that Haiti has such a large African population. However, a good understanding of the country's history helps explain its ethnic composition.


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