Duvalierism: Devoir de Mémoire

From 1986 to 2003, Radio Haïti prioritized “Devoir de Mémoire”, the active duty to remember the 1957 to 1986 dictatorial regime of François and Jean Claude Duvalier. These recordings relate to commemorations of violence and repression, featuring interviews with survivors, witnesses, and family members after the fact, because either Radio Haiti did not yet exist, or because it was impossible to talk directly about these things at the time, or because Radio Haiti’s staff was in exile when the events took place. Some of the major events discussed in these recordings include:

  • the widespread violence of April 26, 1963 (in which François Duvalier unleashed a citywide surge of terror against perceived political opponents and their entire families following the attempted kidnapping of his son Jean-Claude)
  • the Jeune Haïti invasion of August 1964 (in which a group of thirteen young Haitian men who had been studying in the United States attempted to overthrow the dictatorship, and were betrayed and executed)
Memorial for Marcel Numa and Louis Drouin, members of Jeune Haïti executed November 12, 1964, National Cemetery, Port-au-Prince

Commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the deaths of Marcel Numa and Louis Drouin, members of Jeune Haïti executed November 12, 1964, National Cemetery, Port-au-Prince

  • the Jérémie Vespers massacre of 1964 (in which twenty-seven people – family or supposed family of some of the members of Jeune Haïti – were killed in retaliation for the attempted invasion)
  • the Cazale massacre of 1969, which began March 27 following an attack on a MVSN station launched by anti-Duvalierist communist rebels (Parti Unifié des Communistes Haïtiens) and lasted until April 11, in which the military and the Tontons Macoutes burned many peasant homes and killed, arrested, and disappeared an unknown number of peasants.
  • the killing of the “twa flè lespwa” (Three Flowers of Hope), three students in a schoolyard in Gonaïves when soldiers opened fire on a peaceful demonstration on November 28, 1985 . The deaths of the teens, Jean Robert Cius, Mackenson Michel and Daniel Israel ignited a series of nationwide protests that led to the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier in February 1986.
  • the April 26, 1986 Fort Dimanche massacre, in which an unknown number of demonstrators were killed and injured when the army opened fire at a commemoration of April 26, 1963 in front of Fort Dimanche – thus demonstrating that Duvalierist violence did not end with Duvalier.

As collective memory around the Duvalier dictatorship is superseded by the turbulent transitional years that followed, as memories are forgotten or misremembered, or are implicitly or explicitly silenced, and as the survivors who lived through those events firsthand grow older, these engaged conscious acts of remembering – devoir de mémoire – have become vital for both the legal efforts to obtain justice and for society in general.


François Duvalier Speech, January 1971

Jean-Claude Duvalier Speech, September 1971

Luckner Cambronne, Minister of the Interior – Press Conference, 23 Nov. 1971

Editorial: Bon appétit, messieurs!  20 October 1980

One-Year Commemoration of the Killings of “Twa Flè Lespwa” in Gonaïves, Featuring Venel Remarais, 27 Nov. 1986

Cazale Massacre: 18 Years Later, 27 March 1987

Testimonies of April 26, 1986, Fort Dimanche Massacre (Mothers of Victims, Human Rights Observer) – one-year anniversary, 26 Apr. 1987

Interview with members of Komite Pa Bliye (commemoration at Fort Dimanche, February 1991)

One Comment

  1. I am listening to that important interview with the professor Roger Gaillard, both (Jean and Gaillard) are superb. I wasn’t born yet when the interview took place, that’s so amazing!

    Thank you for the initiative…some of the interviews that I listened to at the time, give me goose bumps.

    That was the time when journalism reflects the soul of the people!

    Once again, thank you very much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *