François “Papa Doc” Duvalier

Facts about François Duvalier

François “Papa Doc” Duvalier died at 64 years old
Born: April 14, 1907
Died: April 22, 1971
Birthplace: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Best known as: The all-powerful President of Haiti, 1957-71



François “Papa Doc” Duvalier Biography

François Duvalier was the brutal and notorious ruler of Haiti from 1957-71.

François Duvalier got his start as a physician, which was the source of his nickname, “Papa Doc.” He worked in the Haitian government beginning in the mid-1940s. With the army’s support, he was elected to the presidency in 1957. In 1964 he declared himself president for life and indeed, stayed president until his death in 1971, when he was succeded by his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

Papa Doc Duvalier was not a benevolent dictator. An expert in voodoo, he ruled Haiti with brute force and terror. His ruthless security force, the Tontons Macoutes, acted as real-life bogeymen who routinely executed his opponents. The family reign finally ended in 1986, when “Baby Doc” Duvalier was sent into exile in France after an upraising in Haiti.

Extra credit

The name Tonton Macoutes translates roughly to “Uncle Knapsack.” Per, it is “a Haitian term that describes an old folktale character (Uncle Knapsack) who snatches children into a knapsack or basket (makout) and often eats them alive.”


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