ABC News, By Hyeyoon (Alyssa) Choi, July 24, 2021
When Haiti won its independence nearly 200 years ago, it came at a hefty price — an estimated $21 billion today.
The country spent the next century paying off the debt to its former slave owners, France.
It’s a financial conundrum that those experts and historians say have helped keep some formerly colonized countries impoverished: the demand by former slave owners and colonizers for pay in exchange for independence.
The French recognized Haiti’s independence in 1825 but in return demanded a hefty indemnity of 100 million francs, approximately $21 billion (USD) today. It took Haitians more than a century to pay off the debt to its former slave owners and lenders including the City Bank of New York, experts who spoke with ABC News said.
“By forcing Haiti to pay for its freedom, France essentially ensured that the Haitian people would continue to suffer the economic effects of slavery for generations to come,” said Marlene Daut, a professor at University of Virginia specializing in pre-20th century French colonial literary and historical studies.