In 1809, Haiti became the first black republic in the world. In 1820, it gained independence from France. This was an important step for Haitians because it meant they no longer had to live under French rule. The Haitian Revolution, which started in 1791, was a bloody conflict that lasted for over ten years and killed over 100,000 people. Many Haitians fled their country after this conflict ended; some went to Cuba, but most headed for the United States.
Haitian immigration continued through the 19th century and into early 20th century with many more arriving after World War II ended in 1945.
During this time, many Haitians were fleeing political turmoil in their home country and seeking better economic opportunities in America. They also were looking for a place where they could educate themselves and practice their religion freely without being persecuted by the government.
In 1965, Congress passed the Immigration Act, which removed race as a factor in determining who could enter the United States as an immigrant or refugee. This allowed more Haitians to come to America legally over the next few decades as they fled political turmoil and economic hardship in their home country.
Today there are around 800,000 Haitians living in the United States today — less than half of whom were born there.