Key Historical Events. The island of Hispaniola was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. Haiti occupies the western third. The Spanish colony was ceded to France in 1697. After the extirpation of the Indians by the Spaniards (by 1533) large numbers of African slaves were imported whose descendants now populate the country. The slaves obtained their liberation following the French Revolution, but Napoleon restored French authority and imprisoned Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the slaves who had been appointed a French general and governor. Subsequently the French surrendered to a blockading British squadron.
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