Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kate Ramsey

Second Committee Member

Ashli White

Third Committee Member

Eduardo Elena

Fourth Committee Member

Alejandra Bronfman

Fifth Committee Member

Donette Francis


This dissertation investigates the consolidation and overthrow of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s regime by tracing the resurgence of independent and increasingly oppositional Haitian print and radio media after 1971 and its growing role in national politics. Challenging interpretations that stress the suddenness of the political transformation of civil society leading to Duvalier’s ouster in 1986, I analyze a longer history of unrest and discontent as expressed in the pages of newspapers and weekly journals, as well as in radio broadcasts. I argue that the devolution of the Duvalier dictatorship can be traced back to the opening of limited press freedom in 1971. Drawing on primary source materials, some only recently available, my research tackles several problematics in Haitian political history: the fifteen-year endurance of a brutal regime headed by a seemingly weak dictator; the portrayal of peasants as apathetic and of popular resistance as reactive; and the tendency to focus on Duvalierist violence and coercion as a principle explanation for the dictatorship’s resilience. I propose that investigating the Haitian press nuances our understanding of the dictatorship and its impact on civil society in twentieth-century Haiti. Organized chronologically, my dissertation argues that the period of greater press freedom, between 1971 and 1980, redrafted the boundaries of social and political citizenship and reshaped the nature of political engagement in Duvalierist Haiti. I focus on print and radio productions, the journalists who advanced them, and the audiences they reached. Often overshadowed by the events immediately preceding the regime’s overthrow in early 1986, the decade of the 1970s is essential, I argue, to understanding the movement to unseat the dictatorship in Haiti. In this study, I explore how journalists and their various audiences understood and negotiated the changing relationship between the state and civil society shortly after Jean-Claude took over the presidency-for-life. Paying closer attention to the politicized nature of Haiti’s re-emerging independent press changes our understanding of state politics and civil society under Jean-Claude Duvalier and of the circumstances leading to his overthrow in 1986. By rethinking the trajectory of popular activism against the regime, I seek to nuance current understandings of the dictatorship’s longevity and of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s overthrow. Examining the dynamism of the Haitian press during this period, I offer a new way to interpret the crisis that led to Jean-Claude’s ouster, as it was reported, analyzed, and debated in print and radio newsrooms in Haiti and the diaspora.


Duvalier; Press; Radio; Media; Politics; Dictatorship

Available for download on Sunday, June 21, 2020