THE BLACK STONE by Virginia Greene Millikin


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This description of contemporary life in Port au Prince, Haiti, shows only the picture postcard side. The city is visualized from the point of view of a young Haitian boy named Roland. He had lived In the country with his sister and grand-mother, but they came to Port au Prince so that the girl, made ill from malnutrition, could be a patient at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital. Grandmother went to work at the hospital, and Roland Joined the Boyds, an American family staying in Haiti on government business. In return for the odd Jobs he did for them he was able to live with them, was provided with schooling, clothes, food, and frequently with money--more than seems consistent with Haiti's shockingly low per capita income. The fact that almost all the people are impoverished is indicated, the sense of depression that goes with it is not (""They had never in their lives had enough to eat, but most of the people they knew didn't either. It was fun to imagine things and laugh; laughing made them forget unhappy things."") The most flagrant distortion the book offers is the way it suggests that Haiti is a Republic in fact as well as in name, that its people enjoy a sense of liberty. (When Roland and his Grandmother stop in awe in front of the President's palace, the sight of the flag ""sent thrills down Roland' s back."" ""'Remember our grandfathers and greatgrandfathers died so we could be free people,'"" grandmother says.) And the President (never named as Duvalier) is seen as a benevolent person, not as a notorious dictator who has seized power and whose rigid Control belies for the masses of people the sense of optimism and recognition of progress which Roland is enabled to feel. Haiti offers a lesson worth learning as a textbook example of oppression; to idealize the country is appalling.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1966
Publisher: Reilly & Lee