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Faith facts about Haitian New Yorkers

There a no certain statistics about the faiths of Haitians in New York City. We have sorted through various scholarly, religious organization and community estimates to arrive at our figures. We are also continuing to interview Haitian religious leaders about the attendance at their religious sites. We welcome any additional information. A majority of NYC […]

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Pierre Toussaint, famous early NYC barber & Catholic layman

There a no certain statistics about the faiths of Haitians in New York City. We have sorted through various scholarly, religious organization and community estimates to arrive at our figures. We are also continuing to interview Haitian religious leaders about the attendance at their religious sites. We welcome any additional information.

A majority of NYC Haitians identify with the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic church with the largest Haitian attendance is Saint Joachim & Saint Anne Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn. This church is a center for 21 Haitian Catholic charismatic groups scattered around Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.

The Protestant churches officially count a 100 churches, and there a number of uncounted ones. They probably make up about 20-25% of the Haitian community in New York City. In comparison the Haitian community in Miami, Florida is majority Protestant.

People who identify with vodou make up about 30% of the population.

In Haiti and the Haitian diaspora, the proportion of Haitians who are Protestants is growing. Vodou is declining among Haitians, in part due to Protestant missionaries and to Catholic revival movements like the Charismatic movement.

From the country of Haiti we have somewhat more certain figures about religion:

Roman Catholics                                              55% 2003 (UN survey)

Evangelical/Pentecostal Protestants      33% 2010 (estimate)

20% 2003 (UN Survey)

3% 1940 (estimate)

Vodou                                                                  50% (estimate)

Also see website

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Haitian Religious Chronology

1493                    Columbus’ second voyage to Santo Domingo, or, as he named it, Hispaniola, brings

Dominican priests. Followed by Jesuits, Franciscans and Capuchins. The first Jew

to settle in Haiti, Luis de Torres, arrived in 1492 as Christopher Columbus’s interpreter.

1750-1790       Formation of Vodou

1787                   Pierre Toussaint comes as slave to NYC. Raised funds for the original St. Patrick’s

Cathedral on Mott and Prince Streets. Cardinal O’Connor moved Toussaint’s grave to

the crypt inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue.

1791-1804       Haitian Revolution launched with Bwa Kayiman Vodou ceremony, Aug. 13–14, 1791

and presided over by a slave and voudou priest named Boukman.

Notable independence leader: Toussaint Louverture

1807                   English Wesleyan Mission

1816                    Quaker evangelism by Stephen Grellet & John Hancock

1823                    A freed slave Thomas Paul from New Hampshire is first Baptist missionary to Haiti

1829                    Haitian Mother Lange started with her own money the first school for Black children in

the United States in 1819. She founded the first religious congregation for women of

color, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, “ in 1829. In 1991 she was proposed for

sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Mother Lange

1861                    Establishment of Episcopal Church of Haiti by 110 African-American immigrants.

1879                   Seventh-day Adventists begin.

1889                   Frederick Douglass is U.S. Minister and Consul General to Haiti

1890s                 Nationalist Louis Joseph Janvier promotes Protestant vision for Haiti

1915-1934        U.S. occupies Haiti

1920                   Muslims from Morocco settle in Haiti

1920s-1930s   Pentecostals arise

1931                    Church of God of Prophecy Mission

1934                    Church of God World Missions (Cleveland, TN)

1940s                 Independent Pentecostals in the hills around Miragoane; later join Assembly of God

1941-1943        Forced closure of Pentecostal churches

1945                    Haitian Assembly of God starts

1948                    Haitian Nazarene Church starts

1950                    Haitian Salvation Army starts

1966                    Haitian Mennonite Church starts

1969                    Haitian Church of God  starts

1957-1986        Pro-vodou Duvalier dictatorship & impoverishment of Haiti. Extreme poverty rose from

46% in 1976 to 81% in 1985.

1980                    Haitian Lutheran Church starts

1987                    Boyce Bible Center established & directed by Dr. Jean-Baptiste (Southern Baptist


1965                    Establishment of , Baptist Church of the French Language/Eglise Baptiste d’Expression

Francaise (Southern Baptist) of Brooklyn. 2010: Pastor Jean-Baptiste Thomas, 4000


1975                    Father Joseph Malagreca, “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” starts ministry to Catholic

Haitians in Brooklyn.

Presbyterian Church in America mission to Haiti

1985                    Haitian state officially recognizes Protestantism

First mosque in Haiti

1986                    Elim Fellowship World Missions of New York starts branch in Haiti

1991                    Father Malagreca becomes pastor of Satin Joachim & Saint Anne Roman Catholic

Church, Brooklyn

1990 Dec           Father Jean Bertrand Aristide elected President, ousted in October, 1991.

1997                    Abner Louima brutalized by rogue NYC police officers. Attends Fishers of Men Church,


2003                   Haitian state officially recognizes Vodou.

Brooklyn Vodou priestess Mambo Marie Carmel, 2008 by Stephanie Keith

2005                   Evangelical Pastor Chavannes Jeune runs for President of Haiti (4th Place with 6% of the


Evangelicals like Pastor Jeune have started contending for leadership in Haiti.

2010 Jan 1        27.0 earthquake, 230,000 dead, 1 million homeless

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Further reading about Haitian religions

Compiled by Bob Corbett with additions by Elizabeth McAlister, Leslie G. Desmangles,  Glen Ingrham, and Tony Carnes.

Brodwin, Paul. 1991. Political Contests and Moral Claims: Religious Pluralism and Healing in a Haitian Village. Ph.D Dissertation, Harvard University.

Belany,  Ephren.  1998. L'iglise  protestante  d'Haiti  en  question.  Port-au-Prince:  Imprimerie Media-text.

Brodwin,  Paul.  1996. Medicine  and  morality  in  Haiti.  Cambridge,  England:  Cambridge University Press.

Pentecostalism  in translation: Religion and the production of  community in the Haitian diaspora. 2003. American  Ethnologist 30, no. 1: 85-101.

Brown, Karen McCarthy.  1991. Mama Lola: A  vodou priestess  in Brooklyn. Berkeley: University of  California Press.

Melvin Butler. 2008. "The Weapons of Our Warfare: Music, Positionality, and Transcendence Among Haitian Pentecostals" Caribbean Studies. Special Issue: Interrogating Caribbean Music: Power, Dialogue, and Transcendence. Volume 36:2, pp. 23-64.

Conway, Frederick. 1978. Pentacostalism in the Context of Haitian Religion and Health Practice. Ph.D. dissertation, American University, Washington DC.

Greene, Anne.  1993. The  Catholic church  in  Haiti:  Political  and  social  change.  East  Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

Griffiths, Leslie. 1991. History of Methodism in Haiti. Imprimerie Methodiste.

Hurbon, Laennec ed. 1989. Le Phenomene religieux dans la Caraibe: Guadeloupe, Guyane, Haiti. Montreal: Les Editions du CIDIHCA.

Jeanty, Edner A. 1989. Le  Christianisme en Haiti. Port-au-Prince:  La  Presse Evangelique.

Lain, Clinton Eugene. 1998. Church growth and evangelism in Haiti: Needs, problems, and methods. D.Miss. diss., Asbury Theological Seminary.

Louis, Andre Jeantil. 1998. Catholicism, Protestantism, and a model of  effective ministry in the context of  voodoo in Haiti. D.Min., Fuller Theological Seminary.

Metraux, Alfred. Vodou et Protestantisme Alfred Metraux. 1958 Oct-Dec. Revue de l'Histoire des Relgions, Vol 144, No 2, pp 198-216. Chambers comments: Discusses Voodoo and Protestantism in the Marbial Valley.

McAlister, Elizabeth. 2002. Rara! Vodou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora.  Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press.

McAlister, Elizabeth. 1998. "Madonna of 115th St. Revisited: Vodou and Haitian Catholicism in the Age of Transnationalism," in S. Warner, ed., Gatherings in Diaspora. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Margarita A. Mooney. 2009. Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora. Berkeley, California: University of California Press .

Michel, Claudine, and Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Eds. 2006. Invisible Powers: Vodou in Haitian Life and Culture. New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Pressoir, Catts. La protestantisme Haitien (Haitian Protestantism). 1945. P-au-P: Imprimerie de la Societe Biblique et des Livres Religieux d'Haiti, Vol 1; P-au-P, Imprimerie du Seminaire Adventiste, 1977, Vol 2;

Charles-Poisset Romain. 1985. Le Protestantism Dans La Societe Haitienne, Impremerie Henri Deschamps.

Tekle Mariam Woldimikael. 1989. Becoming Black American: Haitians and American Institutions in Evanston, Illinois. New York: AMS Press.

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  • Like this also

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  • Interesting!

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  • Thank you, John, for your encouragement. Of course, we also benefit from many, many people who help us, find out things and let us know. We are always excited and thankful when someone sends us a tip or news about a new study or article.

  • You guys are providing a good deal more than news. You are becoming the "go to" source for the thermometer that NYC religions is becoming.

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