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How the word ‘voodoo’ became a racial slur

Danielle N. Boaz , University of North Carolina – Charlotte

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Angelique Kidjo: the diva from Benin carries with her a fierce history

Sanya Osha , University of Cape Town

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What is Haitian Voodoo?

Guilberly Louissaint , University of California, Irvine

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Dr John: music’s boogie-woogie voodoo man who defied convention but defined New Orleans

Adam Behr , Newcastle University

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Why age gives West African women more autonomy and power

Marijke Verpoorten , University of Antwerp and Sahawal Alidou , University of Antwerp

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Marguerite Johnson , University of Newcastle

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Haitian Vodou pdf

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  • Colonialism

Haitian Vodou first took shape in the context of slavery. Once the religion of the royal family in Dahomey, in West Africa, it was then transformed by the slaves of the island of Haiti as a way of restoring a sense of identity and as a force of liberation. This explains the highly significant role played by Vodou in the largest ever successful slave revolt in history and in the creation of an independent Haiti. Initially, anthropology, based on an evolutionary perspective, regarded Vodou as the manifestation of a primitive and barbaric culture closely linked to magic and witchcraft, a view compatible with the European colonisation movement. As a result, Vodou was subjected to a number of waves of persecution by the Catholic clergy. However, over the course of the last decades, anthropology has demonstrated that the syncretism seen in Vodou, notably with its repurposing of the worship of Catholic saints, indicates the creation of a new culture that is capable of tolerance. Its pantheon and its rituals can be understood thanks to an anthropology based on theories of language and symbolic function. Anthropology also shows us that Haitian Vodou serves as a means of remembrance and that it forms part of the patrimony of humanity since the nineteenth century. 


With its worship of spiritual entities or divinities representing the different domains of nature (water, air, fire, etc.) and human activities (for example, sexuality, work, etc.), Vodou was first practiced in the countries of the Gulf of Guinea, namely Dahomey or present-day Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Guinea, and Ghana. In this area, society was, up until the eighteenth century, largely organised around families, lineages, villages, or ethnic groups. Each of these had their own divinities, referred to as Vodoun, which, in the Fon language in Dahomey, represented an invisible force, capable of manifesting itself in the bodies of certain individuals through trance and possession. Tensions and, in certain cases, wars between ethnic groups favoured a certain mingling on a religious level and some divinities successfully transferred from one ethnic group to another. Particularly in Dahomey, during the eighteenth century, these religions became centralised and were consequently placed under the domination of the royal family.

With the advent of the slave trade (that is to say, the trading of African people) and of slavery which began in the first decades of the sixteenth century, and which intensified partly as a result of the establishment of the French West India Company in 1664, millions of Africans would be deported to the Americas, taking their divinities with them. This led to the emergence of religions such as Candoblé in Brazil, Santeria in Cuba, and Vodou in Saint-Domingue, the French colony which would become the independent state of Haiti in 1804 and then, in 1821, would be divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Understanding Vodou means first of all focusing on the transformations it underwent as a result of the experiences of Africans originating from many different ethnic groups, who were eager at a very early stage to establish the conditions for their freedom from slavery. Anthropological research will always be haunted, or at the very least intrigued, by the astonishing effort made by the slaves who managed to produce a new religious and cultural system which integrated at one and the same time elements handed down from the various ethnic groups now living together in the same area, those imposed by the institution of slavery, and those handed down from the Amerindians. This intercultural mix of very heterogeneous elements seems to encapsulate the unique nature of Vodou.

Anthropologists often distinguish between two stages in the formation of Vodou in Haiti. The first of these occurred during the period of slavery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the second began with the independence of Haiti in 1804 and has continued up to the present day, taking on new forms in a changing political context. By examining the Vodou pantheon and its rituals, this entry will focus its anthropological investigation on the significance of Vodou divinities on individual and collective life. In spite of the prejudices rooted in an anthropology originally based on the opposition between ‘barbarians’ and ‘civilised’ individuals, Vodou will be turn out to be a source for creating a new culture, a place of memory and part of humanity’s universal heritage.

Slavery and the development of Vodou

The living conditions in which the slave trade and slavery had plunged Africans in the Americas made it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain the religious and cultural inheritance of the ethnic groups from which they had originated. Slaves were effectively separated from their families and their lineage and were considered as personal property, and slavery was offered to them, according to most missionaries, as an opportunity to obtain access to the condition of true human beings. Thus, for example, the French Blackfriar Father Jean-Baptiste Dutertre was able to assert that ‘their bondage [was] the principle of their happiness’ and that ‘their disgrace [was] the cause of their salvation’ (1666, 35). At that time, Africa was regarded as a continent peopled by savages and barbarians and afflicted by what was then referred to as ‘the curse of Ham’, a legend based on the Biblical story of Canaan and his sons, and in particular Ham who was declared ‘cursed’ and destined for slavery. The same legend attributed black skin to Ham, and would be used, from the seventeenth century onwards, notably in Holland in 1666, as justification for the trade in and enslavement of Africans.

Conversion to Christianity would therefore lead to the gradual cultural assimilation of the African slave. Emerging in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, anthropology (see Duchet 1971) was dominated by an evolutionary perspective which saw Europe as the pinnacle of humanity, in contrast with Africa which was considered to be at the lowest point of the hierarchy.

The publication of the Code noir (‘Black code’) by French king Louis XIV in 1685 sought to legitimise the practice of slavery after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Enacted in 1598, the latter effectively brought an end to the wars of religion in Europe by establishing civil and religious peace. By revoking the Edict, Louis XIV made it possible to include in the preamble to the Code noir intolerance towards Protestantism and Judaism and an order to baptise and instruct slaves in the Catholic religion. Article 2 of the Code noir stipulates: ‘All the slaves that shall be in our islands shall be baptised and instructed in the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith.’ Article 3 states: ‘We forbid any public exercise of religion other than the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith…’ (Sala-Molins 1987). This was a reference to both Protestant and Jewish religions. But as far as African religious practices were concerned, these were deemed non-existent: the Code noir regards them as supposedly ‘seditious’ practices, and as a result, any gathering of slaves was strictly forbidden.

It is important to emphasise the exceptionally harsh working conditions endured by slaves on plantations and in homesteads. Slavery resulted in an increase in wealth for France in Saint-Domingue, but also for the whole of Europe which, between the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, deported between twelve and fifteen million African slaves for the production of sugar cane, cotton, coffee, indigo, and cocoa (see, for example, the demographic data in Coquery-Vidrovitch and Mesnard 2013, 122). In Saint Domingue, slaves worked from morning until night under the strict supervision of slave masters armed with whips. In theory, masters resorted to a strategy which prevented slaves from finding themselves reunited with other members of the same ethnic group, since it was considered essential to use any possible means to ensure slaves were kept in a situation of total subjugation to the power of their masters. In practical terms, a slave was considered to have neither ancestors nor descendants. This is why certain sociologists speak, with good reason, of ‘social death’ to describe the total depersonalisation masters sought to impose on their slaves (Patterson 1982). These working conditions, similar to those within a concentration camp, would end up driving the slaves to look for ways to restore their lost identity, by weaving a new social fabric which would unite them in the struggle for liberation.

The cult of the dead in the development of Vodou

For the slaves, the cult of the dead was not only a link to African religious and cultural traditions. It also represented the foundation of new practices and perceptions which the slaves would introduce in their own way, as a result of the subjugation imposed on them by the institution of slavery. The cult of the dead was not just an African heritage but was also overlaid with a new significance. If the slave trade is a process of deportation that tore the individual away from his or her family, lineage, and clan, it is only to be expected that when a slave dies, every possible step must be taken in order to enable the restoration of links with the native land. Slave funerals in the colony involved rituals which were designed to re-establish contact between the dead slave and his or her ancestors. Such rituals sought out the divinities responsible for protecting lineage and ethnic groups. The religious and cultural heritage of Africa was gradually restored through this semantic chain, which represented the link between the dead person and his or her ancestors and their divinities. Many commentators and historians point out that the slaves believed they would return to Africa after their death and sometimes those who took their own lives expressed their hope of returning home by doing so.

In addition to burial, two other significant moments in the development of Vodou stand out. Slaves were allocated Sunday evenings as leisure time and these evenings provided them with the opportunity to organise dances, known as calendas . These dances enabled the slaves to revisit some of their African traditions, far from the gaze of the slave masters. The second key moment is what is referred to as marronage (Fouchard [1972] 1988): the process by which slaves fled into remote mountain regions where they were sometimes able to meet up with members of their ethnic groups but, in any case, could organise a life of freedom. Marronage has been the subject of a great many studies and is recognised as the expression of the desire for freedom and, therefore, as an unmistakable expression of protest against the condition of slavery (see for example Fouchard 1962 and Fick 2017).

The plantation masters in Saint-Domingue greatly feared marronage , and imposed severe punishments for it. But they had enormous difficulty finding out what was being plotted in the cultural and religious practices of the slaves, given that the latter demonstrated, for example, a sincere devotion to prayers, mass, and the worship of saints and of the Virgin Mary in churches and were eager to take part in religious processions. Chromolithographs representing the saints decorated the Catholic churches that the slaves were obliged to attend. These images provided the slaves with details that enabled them to keep depictions of African divinities alive. Hence the syncretism which, at first sight, still marks out Haitian Vodou, as it does Brazilian Candomblé and Cuban Santeria.

Vodou and the slave rebellion of 1791

From the beginning of the second half of the eighteenth century onwards, many religious readers from both Catholic churches and from marronage communities began calling for revolt, drawing on the support of large numbers of slaves. These leaders included Padre Jean who, in 1786, gave his name to a Vodou ritual known as Petro , and Colas Jambes Coupées, a maroon (i.e. a former slave who lived in freedom) who was regarded as a sorcerer and who encouraged slaves to abolish the colony. Of great importance was the famous Makandal who, as early as 1751, had prophesied the death of whites and the end of slavery. Makandal was suspected of being a specialist in recipes for poisons and magic potions and his name remains associated with the witchcraft practices and beliefs called makanda . Arrested and sentenced to be burnt alive, it was said throughout the colony that Makandal managed to escape the flames by transforming himself into a lizard. Recent research refers to a ‘ Makandal site’ (Midy 2003) associated with the Haitian revolution, since it was from the settlement named Normand LeMézy in the north of the country where he operated that the idea of a general slave revolt gradually began to spread. It is important to focus our attention on this key event in the history of Vodou, which will always be linked to the process of the anti-slavery revolution which in turn gave birth to the Haitian nation (see Fick 2014). 

On the 14 th of August 1791 near Morne-Rouge, in a place called Bois-Caïman, around 200 slaves, commanders, coachmen, domestic slaves, and representatives of various sugar production workshops gathered for a Vodou ceremony organised under the leadership of Dutty Boukmann, a slave in a plantation in the north-east of the country and a Vodou priest ( houngan ). According to early accounts, available thanks to the writings of surgeon Antoine Dalmas who was present at the ceremony (1814), the participants sacrificed a pig to African divinities and swore to bring slavery to an end and to launch a general insurrection. They drank the blood of the sacrificed animal and pledged to keep the future rebellion a secret. Also officiating at the ceremony was a woman by the name of Cécile Fatima. Certain historians (Geggus 2002) provide a dramatised version of the ceremony, describing it as taking place during a stormy night. One week later, in the night of the 22 nd to 23 rd of August, the revolt broke out: all the sugar and coffee plantations, along with the workshops of Saint-Domingue, were burnt down over a wide area. Catholics were also involved in this revolution. They include a maroon known as Romaine the Prophetess who declared herself to be the goddaughter of the Virgin Mary from whom she received messages telling her to free 4000 blacks and mulattos from slavery.

The outcome of the rebellion was disastrous for the colony, with many hundreds (perhaps even as many as a thousand) colonisers being killed, and 1,200 coffee plantations and 161 sugar plantations destroyed by fire. The French government estimated the losses at 600 million pounds (Cauna 1987, 212).

Saint-Domingue at this date was a powder keg, with 500,000 slaves—many of whom had escaped and were living as maroons in camps in the mountains. There were also 40,000 emancipated mulattos and blacks and 30,000 whites, the latter divided into ‘poor whites’ ( petits blancs : craftsmen, traders/merchants, sailors, and soldiers) and ‘the white elite’ ( grands blancs : planters and administrators). The Code noir of 1685 had for decades controlled relationships between these groups on the basis of a strict racial hierarchy which went from whites, through mulattos, to blacks. As soon as news of the French revolution arrived in Saint-Domingue, all social and racial groups were galvanised into action. Nine years after the Haitian revolution, in 1882, Napoleon attempted to reinstate slavery. His attempts to do so led to a war in Haiti, with 40,000 men sent out from France, that ended with Haiti’s independence. It is highly likely that secret Vodou societies were involved in this war.

Having established the historic roots and the historical importance of Vodou, we now turn our attention to the pantheon of this religion and the rituals associated with it. We shall then examine how anthropology accounts for this system of beliefs and practices.

The Vodou pantheon and its rituals

In Africa (notably in Benin and Nigeria), three types of Vodou can be identified: one associated with family or lineage ( hennu-vodu ), one with the village ( to-vodu ), and one with ethnic groups ( ado-vodo ). The divinities are divided into celestial groups ( Mawu-Lisa being responsible for day and night, while Gu is in charge of organising the universe); then in terrestrial groups (wih Agwe or Agbe for the sea and the waters, or Sogbo for the rain) and finally in groups of divinities representing the storm (such as Ogou-Badagri , master of the thunder). In the case of Saint-Domingue/Haiti, the African divinities (called lwa , spirit, or mistè ) are divided into the rada divinities (representing the Fon and the Yoruba people) and the Congo and Petro divinities (for the Bantu and Creole people, respectively). They represent a transformation of ethnic groups into families of divinities (called nanchon , or nations) and constitute a genuine pantheon. God is recognised as the ‘great master’ ( Granmet ) who leaves to the lwa , the secondary divinities, the task of dealing with earthly matters. Divinities therefore mediate between humans and their world. They represent an imaginary and symbolic field that serves as the foundation of social relations, and enables the mutual recognition between slaves and their solidarity during revolts.

The value of one lwa in the pantheon is a little like that of a word in a language: its value changes and can only be understood in a relationship of contradiction and of complementarity with the other lwa , and therefore with the entire family of divinities. So, for example, Legba , the ‘leader’ of the lwa , opens the gate separating humans from the world of the lwa . Represented by Saint Peter, he is also the guardian of temples (called ounfor ) and of dwellings, and is invoked at the beginning of each Vodou ceremony. Legba is also ‘master of the crossroads’, places that are associated with danger but that are also home to objects known as wanga , which can protect against evil spirits and allow their owners to bewitch others. Amongst the important lwa is also Ogou , represented by Saint James the Great, as a warrior. His favourite colour is red and he is associated with fire, but he stays in contact with water where he is reunited with the lwa Ezili , the flirtatious and sensuous woman represented by the Virgin Mary, who is his mistress. Ogou is also the cousin of Zaka , lwa of agriculture, whose adoptive son is Brave Gédé , spirit of the dead and of cemeteries. Many of these lwa are associated with the Rada subsection of Vodou, but in Congo and Petro subsections of Vodou these spirits can also be present. So, for example, the Lwa rada , known as the twins (or marassas ), are reputed to be fearsome (Heusch 2000). 

The Vodou temples ( ounfor )

The lwa are regularly honoured in ounfor , which are the Vodou temples where ceremonies take place. It would appear that ounfor were built all over Haiti after independence in 1804. In charge of the ounfor is an ounfan , who is the owner of the temple. A woman priest can also be the owner of an ounfor and is called a manbo . At the entrance of an ounfor there is often a tree, the calabash, which is the residence of lwa Legba . 

The decorations of the ounfor , which consist of images of Catholic saints, might seem misleading as in reality these represent the lwa most often honoured there. Such images are housed in chambers ( kay-mistè ) in which are placed their favourite foods and their symbolic objects, mostly during ceremonies. The lwa Ezili , who is represented by a flirtatious woman, will, for example, receive a mirror. The ceremonies, which consist of dances and songs in honour of the lwa , take place in a large room called the péristil . In the middle of the péristil , acting as a connecting link between the earthly and the celestial worlds, stands a pillar called the poto-mitan , often decorated with two snakes ( Dambala-Wedo and his wife, Ayida Wedo , joined together like fire and water). Divinities from mythical Africa pass through the poto-mitan after an epic journey under the waters of the Atlantic to be reunited with their servants in the temple. Around the poto-mitan stand the oungan or the manbo , the ‘chanterelle queen’ who directs the dances and songs, the initiated or ounsi ready to sing and to dance, and the other participants ( pitit kay ) who are welcomed as members of the fraternity (see below). Opposite them is an orchestra composed of three drums which are used as sacred instruments and play the tunes associated with the lwa in order to facilitate trances and possession. At the start of each ceremony, geometric patterns ( vèvès ) representing the lwa are drawn on the floor with coffee or flour, and these help to incite states of trance. Emblems of the lwas are placed on a table resembling an altar: food dishes and various objects such as bottles containing the souls of the dead placed under the protection of the lwa . 

The major places of Vodou worship in Haiti include the temples of Souvenance and Soukri , both close to the port-city of Gonaïves. Each year, at Easter and in August, thousands of visitors and practitioners, including the Haitian diaspora, gather there to celebrate. In fact, throughout the year, celebrations marking the patron saints also attract Vodou practitioners who readily transform these into occasions of Vodou pilgrimage. For example, on the 16 th of July, the feast of the Saut d’Eau , dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, attracts many tens of thousands of pilgrims to a famous waterfall surrounded by trees believed to house Vodou divinities. Often the pilgrims also attend the local church, and display the same levels of enthusiasm and devotion as at the site of the famous waterfall. 

What is the nature of the lwa , and what are their demands? In themselves they are neither good nor bad since their impact on our lives depends on how we follow their rules. Together, the lwa are part of a hierarchical system, and those who take precedence over others need to be honoured more lavishly.

Honouring the lwa ( Vodou rituals )

How should the lwa be honoured, and what do they represent today in people’s individual and collective lives? An individual generally receives one or two lwa as part of his or her family heritage. These are referred to as the lwa-rasin , or ‘root-lwa’: some Haitian families have, tucked away somewhere out of sight in their room, a small alter called wogatwa on which is placed the image of a saint which is indeed the inherited lwa who they worship on a regular basis. On a collective level, there are fraternities to which individuals belong within an ounfor . People attend or actively participate in ceremonies which follow the Catholic liturgical calendar. On Christmas night, they ask for favours of the lwa ; on the 6 th of January, the Feast of Kings is the occasion for a ceremony bringing together a number of families, and on the 1st and 2 nd of November, the festival of the dead gives rise to festivities worthy of a national holiday which take place in cemeteries (Metraux 1958, 216ss). Throughout the year, oungan and manbo are consulted and act as official interpreters for the language of the Vodou divinities in order to guide individuals in their daily lives. 

To obtain the favours of the lwa , offerings must be made to them on a regular basis. These can involve pouring water on to the ground ( jétédlo ) in order to give the lwa a drink, an opening gesture in ceremonies. Animals (poultry, goats, or bulls) are sacrificed in order to provide food for the lwa ( manger-lwa ). Of course, each ritual must be strictly applied so as to avoid the risk of provoking the anger of the ‘spirits’. A ceremony generally culminates in one or more participants becoming possessed, a phenomenon which, for Vodou practitioners, means taking the form of a lwa , allowing oneself to be possessed by it (a process described as ‘overlapping’ with the lwa ), by falling into a trance. At the first signs of such a trance, the Vodou practitioners present prepare to welcome the lwa and offer the objects and symbols associated with that lwa . Such an epiphany of a lwa is sign of a successful ceremony. 

Certain Vodou practitioners go further than the traditional relationships they have with the lwa in the context of their family or fraternity. They may have a deeper relationship with a particular lwa . Normally it is the lwa who is believed to select the individual in question. In this way, a ‘mystical marriage’ with a lwa can take place, either as a result of a dream, an illness, an accident, or repeated failures in matters of everyday life. This ceremony takes the form of an ordinary marriage with a blessing of rings in the presence of witnesses. The lwa gives his or her agreement to the marriage through a dream or by taking possession of the mind of a participant. These mystical marriages are a way of transmitting the legacy of lwa since it is thanks to a godfather (or a godmother) who has already experienced an initiation that this transmission can take place, the newly married individual then becoming a godchild. He or she must set aside certain days of the week to make offerings to the lwa and must accept sexual abstinence. 

Sometimes certain Vodou practitioners seek to buy lwa whom they have not inherited from an oungan or a boko, in order to acquire additional protection or to cast spells on potential enemies. There are, however, risks associated with this, since a lwa can in return make demands which are difficult to honour. 

Initiation is a ritual which takes place after several days (or weeks) of seclusion in an ounfor . The individual who has been chosen by a lwa cannot easily escape that fate. But he or she can choose to become an initiated person ( ounsi ) which means being able to live the rest of his life with the lwa attached to his head like a permanent protection. The initiation period corresponds in fact to the time needed for the individual to become familiar with the customs of the lwa , the healing leaves and plants, the dishes; in short, all the objects linked to this particular lwa . A solemn ceremony marks the moment when the initiated person emerges, accompanied by their godfather and godmother. When they die, the initiated must undergo a ritual of separation ( desounen ) from the lwa, to allow him or her to peacefully depart from the world of the living. A long initiation period is also required for a Vodou priest to become an official interpreter of the lwa , a role usually passed down through families. Vodou secret societies can also be included in the context of initiation practises. These societies are part of the West African heritage and are referred to by names such as Chanpwel, Zobop , and Bizango , and they meet only at night. They operate under a strict hierarchy under the command of an oungan who takes the title of emperor. The aim of these societies is to defend Vodou and its temples, and they are often suspected of deploying the powers of witchcraft. As a result, they are regarded with fear. This association with witchcraft is widely used in Protestant preaching to convert Haitians from the lower classes to charismatic Protestantism (Hurbon 2001).  

Advances in anthropology

Amongst the issues which have captured the attention of Vodou anthropology are the phenomena of possession, witchcraft, and syncretism. Possession was, until recently, thought to be associated with hysteria or a pathological phenomenon linked to psychiatry. This interpretation was based on the notion that convulsions or the loss of self-control were considered abnormal. It was not until the work undertaken by Claude Lévi-Strauss following Marcel Mauss, and inspired by new research in linguistics in the 1950s, that possession would come to be seen as a form of language. Moments of possession in a Vodou ceremony were seen as perfectly normal by members of the audience. Nobody would be upset by it, since what is normal must be understood according to the roles of the existing cultural system. By following this route of symbolic analysis opened by Lévi-Strauss, an explanation of the relationship of individuals and of society to the Vodou divinities could finally be established (see Hurbon 1972, 1987). During the process of possession, the lwa must recieve special greetings, particular drum rhythms and dance steps which enable he or she to be identified, and symbolic objects, such as a sword in the case of Ogou , the lwa of war. The actions of recognition of divinities in the form of ceremonies and rituals constitute a language, and enable the individual to recognise his or her place in society. By following these rituals, the Haitians affirm their identity, recall their painful and unique history, and acknowledge that they have access to the powers of the lwa to help them deal with the difficulties life holds. For losing the language of the lwa means putting yourself under the control of a dual relationship of self to self and quite simply losing language altogether. The lwa take charge of the individual’s life and place it in a field of meaning by classifying the different domains of social life and of nature in such a way that all events, happy or sad, find a meaning. 

At the same time, possession implies a permanent fragility of the body which needs to be protected against the intrusion of bad spirits or of spells cast on the individual in question. Possession is never left to run its own course but must be to some extent coded, controlled, and mastered. Magic and witchcraft are, as a general rule, frowned upon by Vodou practitioners. They represent a negative and dangerous side of Vodou from which individuals should distance themselves as far as possible (Heusch 2000). But, based on the principle that the body of an individual can be penetrated or possessed by spiritual forces (in the form of the lwa or by the ‘spirits’ of the dead), an enemy can inflict on that same individual negative forces capable of causing sickness or even death. Initiation and mystical marriage exist precisely in order to strengthen the protection of Vodou practitioners. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge the famous distinction made by the anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard (1972) between witchcraft and sorcery: witchcraft can be understood as a technique made up of ritual gestures, physical objects, and knowledge or gifts to the service of an individual, whereas sorcery is a power attributed to people supposedly capable of taking possession of an individual’s vital substance against his or her will. 

The other important step in the anthropology of Vodou is the one achieved as a result of Roger Bastide’s work on syncretism. This blend of elements of the Catholic religion (prayers, images of saints, enthusiasm for baptism) and of purely African traditions (divinities or spirits dwelling in trees or in the water, and capable of taking over the body through possession) is easily misinterpreted. Indeed Bastide (1967) demonstrates for the first time that the cultural elements observed in Vodou are not simply juxtaposed: he applies the ‘compartmentalization principle’ in order to demonstrate that the black communities formed as a result of slavery easily passed from one religious system to another, without turning it into one single system. This ‘compartmentalization principle’ allows us to understand the capacity to use any one cultural element as a mask or a screen to help preserve an individual’s own African heritage, and at the same time as a way of reinterpreting this heritage on the basis of elements borrowed from the other system, and vice-versa. We are then confronted with a process of cultural creativity in which heterogeneous and hybrid elements can coexist. 

Another interesting area of anthropological research focuses on the significance of the masculine and feminine in Vodou religions. Lidwina Meyer (1999) demonstrates that in the texts of Vodou myths, there is a gradual gender difference that exists which moves from masculine to feminine by means of a play of masks and of various roles relating to sexuality. This makes it possible to move away from the traditional opposition between feminine/masculine, mind/body, and self-identity /non-self. This analysis leads us to challenge the inferiorisation of women and the arbitrary place given to man as supposedly ‘universal’. It is indeed striking that few normative discriminations in terms of gender seem to exist in Vodou. Women can be priestesses and can take on all sorts of roles in an ounfor .


During the first half of the nineteenth century, Vodou was merely tolerated by the first Haitian state leaders who were reluctant to acknowledge it as a religion at a time when Catholicism was the official religion recognised by the state. The country’s elites were aware of the subversive role Vodou had played during the revolution, and knew that it could potentially reveal the presence of powers parallel to those of the state. Nevertheless, Vodou remained firmly attached to the Catholic Church, functioning almost in osmosis with it. Moreover, since the 1820s, the Haitian government had embarked on various attempts to negotiate with the Vatican for the official recognition of Haitian independence, and it was only in 1860 that a concordat was signed between the Haitian government and the Vatican. From that date onwards, Haiti welcomed missionaries from Brittany to engage in public teaching and establish Catholic parishes throughout the whole country (see Delisle 2003). A new ‘civilising’ vision would be offered to the country by the Catholic clergy, and Vodou was portrayed as a hotbed of magic practices, witchcraft, and cannibalism. These were the prejudices already in circulation with regards to African practices and beliefs. According to the Catholic missionaries, Haiti should rid itself of what was referred to as its ‘African flaws’ represented by Vodou, in order to put itself on the same level as the ‘civilised’ nations. The interpretation of Vodou based on the contrast between the ‘barbarian’ and the ‘civilised’, which has long dominated the country, stems first of all from the perception of the missionaries and administrators of the colonial period, and then that of European visitors in the nineteenth century (like St John 1884). 

Take, for example, this extract from a speech made by a French bishop, Francois Marie Kersuzan, in 1896:

This is our chief enemy, the one we must fight ceaselessly against, a fight to the death. Let us look at it face to face, in order to see it in its full horror and to enable us to conquer it successfully. Many people think that Vodou amounts to obscene dances and copious feast. Vodou is true devil worship with its sacrifices and its pontiffs and the dances are only the crude exterior of a hellish interior.

Such misconceptions are consistent with the colonisation movement based on a European project to ‘civilise’, which flourished during the nineteenth century. Anthropology, emerging at the end of the eighteenth century and in the nineteenth century initially supported this project insofar as it ‘ordered the diversity of races and of peoples, and gave them a rank, that is to say a role in history’ (Duchet 1971); in this instance, the role of the ‘savage’. From this perspective, the theory of a supposedly ‘scientific’ racism was formulated at the end of the nineteenth century.

In the immediate aftermath of this urge to ‘civilise’, Vodou would be subjected to two major waves of persecution by the Catholic Church, which had become the official state religion in 1860. In the first of these, in 1896, the church urged the Catholic faithful to explicitly reject Vodou practices and beliefs. Then in 1941, it launched a major national campaign with auto-da-fe, known as the ‘anti-superstition campaign’ ( la campagne de ‘rejeté’ ) which insisted that each parishioner take an oath renouncing Vodou as a renunciation of ‘Satan and all his works’ (see Metraux 1958, 298ss; Ramsey 2011). This campaign was strongly criticised in 1942 by the ethnologist and writer Jacques Roumain, founder of the National Bureau of Haitian Ethnology, dedicated to collecting and protecting sacred objects associated with Vodou and to promoting research on all aspects of Vodou and on the cultural traditions of the country. 

The surge of intellectuals: Vodou as a site of memory

The American occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 would also provoke a resurgence of the pejorative view of this religion. At the same time, there was a surge in numbers of Haitian intellectuals with, for example, Jean Price-Mars publishing in 1928 a collection of essays titled Ainsi parla l’oncle (translated in 1954 as So spoke the uncle ) in which he sought recognition for the African origins of Haitian culture and therefore for Vodou as a religion which Haitians had the right to call their own. Important publications (for example Métraux 1958; Verger 1957) introduced ethnographies of Vodou that acknowledged its role in the restoration of dignity to Africans deported into slavery, and its status as an original cultural creation as a testimony of their identity.

After the explicit attempts at political manipulation of Vodou during the thirty years of the Duvaliers’ dictatorship, Francois Duvalier declared himself to be its defender. Yet he did exploit it by making certain oungan his representatives in the towns and countryside (see Hurbon 1979). Today, the religion continues to suffer the effects of the huge wave of new Pentecostal churches. As a result of their preachings, these churches provoke a resurgence of the idea that witchcraft is very much the prerogative of Vodou. At the same time, Vodou maintains a horizontal position across the various religious systems competing within the country, in the sense that Vodou practitioners see no difficulty in declaring themselves Catholic and in accepting baptism and communion in church. In the same way, whereas the lwa are demonised in Pentecostal Protestantism, this nevertheless shares some beliefs pertaining to dreams and to trances of the holy spirit which are also found in Vodou. 

With the process of democratisation that the country experienced after the end of the dictatorship in 1986, a number of Vodou priests were lynched for reputedly actively supporting the dictatorship. Since that time, Vodou has managed to create its own organisation in defence against the vandalism and intolerance of some religious denominations. 

At the same time, Vodou seeks to obtain the same privileges as other religions, such as, for example, the right to officially celebrate baptisms, marriages, and funerals. Even today, political leaders still evoke the ‘mystical powers’ of Vodou in their speeches in order to gain legitimacy with the working classes. But, ultimately, the various art forms inspired by Vodou, such as painting, sculpture, music, dance or literature, have enabled it to gain recognition as one of the sites of Haitian individual and collective identity (Consentino 1995). Modern anthropology should set itself the task of exploring these links, and in doing so it will discover that Vodou is a place of memory not only for the Haitian nation but also for humanity at large. It did, after all, witness the struggles endured by the slaves for the recovery and recognition of their human dignity.

Vodou has inspired some important research into its relationship with naive painting, a relationship described by Andre Malraux in 1975 as ‘the most striking experiment in magical painting in our century’. Yet many Haitian artists often choose the route of ‘sophisticated’ painting while at the same time acknowledging the inspiration of Vodou (see the latest work of the art historian Philippe Lerebours [2018] and the sumptuous work of Gerald Alexis [2000]). Vodou should also be inventoried on a scientific basis with reference to its various therapeutic resources for the body and mind thanks to its knowledge of plants and their medicinal value. Several exhibitions of Haitian painting have taken place in France, in Switzerland, and in the United States, but where other cultural categories are concerned, anthropology should see new breakthroughs. Vodou undoubtedly remains a living culture that owes its richness to the integration of various influences, thanks to the scale of the Haitian diaspora (in the US, Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America), which continues to turn to the beliefs and practices of Vodou.

Questions arise as to the role played by Vodou in the Haitian revolution, the ambivalent attitudes of Haitian governments from independence in 1804 to the present day, and on the secret societies which still exert a powerful influence on the imagination of working-class Haitians. Important research also remains to be undertaken on the sacred objects of Vodou and on the places associated with its resistance to slavery which are now memorial sites: they can improve our understanding of the influence that the Haitian Revolution has had on present-day fights against racism.  

Boko : name given to Vodou priests ( oungan ) capable of providing offensive or defensive magic practices

Désounen : a ritual of dispossession conducted on an initiate in order to separate them from the spirit he or she was attached to  

Lwa : spirit or secondary divinity

Lwa mèt-tèt : protective spirit received during initiation which ensures a lwa is attached to an individual in order to protect that person until their death

Lwa-rasin : a spirit passed down through the family

Manbo : Vodou priestess

Manje-lwa : ceremony during which dances and offerings (food and animal sacrifices of chicken, beef, or goats) are made in honour of Vodou divinities, under the supervision of an oungan or manbo

Ounfor: Vodou temple

Oungan: Vodou priest

Ounsi: Vodou initiate

Pedji: special room reserved for lwa

Péristil: space where Vodou ceremonies take place

Poto-mitan: pillar in the centre of the péristil through which spirits can travel to the human world

Pwen: supernatural power or protective force

Vèvè: symbolic drawing, referring to a lwa

Wanga: ordinary magic weapon

Alexis, G. 2000.  Peintres haïtiens . Paris : Edition du Cercle d’Art.

Bastide, R. 1967.  Les Amériques noires . Paris : Payot.

Cauna, J. 1987.  Au temps des isles à sucre . Paris : Editions Karthala.

Consentino, D. 1995.  Sacred arts of Haitian Vodou . Los Angeles : University of California Los Angeles Fowler Museum of Cultural History.

Coquery-Vidrovitch, C. & E. Mesnard 2013.  Etre esclave : Afrique-Amériques, XVe-XIXe   siècle . Paris : La Découverte.

Dalmas, A. 1814.  Histoire de la révolution de Saint-Domingue . Paris : Mame Frères.

Delisle, Ph.. 2003.  Le catholicisme en Haïti au XIXe siècle : le rêve d’une «Bretagne noire».  Paris : Karthala.

Desquiron, L. 1990.  Les racines historiques du vodou . Port-au-Prince : Editions Deschamps.

Duchet, M. 1971.  Anthropologie et histoire au siècle des Lumières . Paris : Maspero.

Dutertre, J.B. 1666.  Histoire des Antilles habitées par les Français , t. 1-III. Paris : Jolly.

Evans-Pritchard, E.E. 1972.  Sorcellerie, oracle et magie chez les Azandé . Paris : Gallimard.

Fick, C. 2014.  Haïti, naissance d’une nation : La Révolution de Saint-Domingue vue d’en bas  (trad. de l’anglais par F. Voltaire). Montréal : Les éditions CIDHICA.

Fouchard, J. 1988 [1972].  Les marrons de la liberté . Port-au-Prince : Editions Henri Deschamps.

Geggus, D. 2002.  Haitian revolutionary studies . Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Garrisson, L. 1998.  L’Edit de Nantes , Paris : Editions Fayard.

de Heusch, L. 2000 . Kongo en Haïti . Dans  Le roi de Kongo et les monstres sacrés . Paris : Gallimard.

Hurbon, L. 1979. Culture et dictature en Haïti : l’imaginaire sous contrôle . Paris : Editions L’Harmattan.

——— 1987 [1972].  Dieu dans le vaudou haïtien . Paris : Payot et Port-au-Prince : Éditions Henri Deschamps.

Kersuzan, F.M. 1896.  Conférence populaire sur le vaudoux donnée le 02 août 1896.  Port-au-Prince : Imprimerie H. Amblard.

Justinvil, F. 2020.  Sociétés secrètes en Haïti. De l’imaginaire au réel . Port-au-Prince: livre électronique.

Lacan, J.  Ecrits . Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

Lerebours, M. Ph. 2018.  Bref regard sur deux siècles de peinture haïtiennes . Port-au-Prince: Edition de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti.

Lévi-Strauss, C. 1958.  Anthropologie structurale . Paris : Plon.

Métraux, A. 1958.  Le vaudou haïtien . Paris : Éditions Gallimard.

Meyer, L. 1999.  Das fingierte Geschlecht. lnszenierungen des Weiblichen und Mannlichen in den kulturellen Texten des Oriha-und Vodun-Kulte am Golf von Benin.  Frankfurt am Main : Peter Lang.

Midy, F. 2003. «Vers l’indépendance des colonies à esclaves d’Amérique : l’exception haïtienne.» Dans  Haïti première république noire  (ed.) M. Dorigny, 121-38. Paris : Publication de la société française d’histoire d’outre-mer et association pour l’étude de la colonisation européenne.

Moreau de Saint-Méry, M.L.E. 1958 [1797].  Description topographique, physique…. De la partie française de l’isle de Saint-Domingue . Paris: Société de l’histoire des colonies françaises.

Patterson, O. 1982.  Slavery and social death: a comparative study . Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Price-Mars, J. 1928.  Ainsi parla l'oncle . Compiègne : Bibliothèque haïtienne.

Ramsey, K, 2011.  Vodou and power in Haiti: the spirits and the law . Chicago: University Press.

Roumain, J. 1942.  A propos de la campagne antisuperstitieuse . Port-au-Prince : Imprimerie de l’Etat.

Sala-Molins, L. 1987.  Le Code noir ou le calvaire de Canaan . Paris : Presses universitaires de France.

St John, S. 1886 [1884].  Haïti ou la république noire . (trad. J. West) Paris : Plon.

Verger, P. 1957. Notes sur le culte des orisha et vodoun à Bahia… et l’ancienne Côte des esclaves en Afrique . Dakar: IFAN.

Note on contributor

Laënnec Hurbon obtained a PhD at Sorbonne University and is Research Director of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). He is also a professor at the State University of Haiti and specialises in studying the relations between religion, culture and politics in Haiti and the Caribbean. He is the author of various works, including  Les mystères du vaudou , published with Gallimard, and Le barbare imaginaire , published with Editions du Cerf.

Note on translation

This text has been translated by Helen Morrison from: Hurbon, L. 2021. Vodou Haïtien . In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, edited by Felix Stein. Online:

Helen Morrison, BA in Comparative Literature and French and M.Phil on Dadaist littérature, University of East Anglia, is a freelance translator (French to English) and has translated eight books for Polity Press.

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New Orleans Voodoo: A Discursive and Semiotic Exploration of a House of Voodoo

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Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses

Vodou is frequently invoked as a cause of Haiti’s continued impoverishment. While scholarly arguments have been advanced for why this is untrue, Vodou is persistently plagued by a poor reputation. This is buttressed, in part, by the frequent appearance in popular culture of the imagined religion of ‘‘voodoo.’’ Vodou and voodoo have entwined destinies, and Vodou will continue to suffer from ill repute as long as voodoo remains an outlet for the expression of racist anxieties. The enduring appeal of voodoo is analyzed through its uses in touristic culture, film, television, and literature. Particular attention is given to the genre of horror movies, in which voodoo’s connections with violence against whites and hypersexuality are exploited to produce both terror and arousal.

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This paper discusses the syncretism of both Catholicism and Voodoo in New Orleans and explains how the adaptable Catholicism of New Orleans provides ample support for the growth rather than repression of Voodoo. Among the shared elements between Catholicism and Voodoo that permit syncretism, I discuss three means which scholarship and my own field research in New Orleans continuously reaffirm: the reliance on ritual to facilitate liturgical practices, the veneration of lesser intermediaries, and a desire for intimate union with the divine. An examination of the elements that permit syncretism lead to a conclusion that the presence of Voodoo in New Orleans is as a direct result from syncretism with Catholicism and that Catholicism in New Orleans actually serves as an assistance to the continuation of Voodoo rather than an impediment. Introduction and Methodology [1] “The City that Care Forgot,” The Big Easy,” “The Crescent City” – many clever titles describe New Orleans, Louisiana, a...

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Shortly after the catastrophic earthquake that crushed Port-au-Prince and the surrounding towns on January 12, 2010, The New York Times published an article in which columnist David Brooks claimed that “voodoo” is a “progress-resistant” cultural influence because it spreads the message that “life is capricious and planning futile.” Alongside Brooks, many authors promote similar views, especially Christians. I argue that Vodou does not negatively affect progress in Haiti. Rather, there are historical, linguistic, and governmental policies that limit progress. In reality, Vodou practitioners enhance progress in their attention to the planning and giving of ceremonies, in the hierarchical organization they establish in communities, in their ritual and language, and in the education imparted through inheritance, teaching, and initiation. The scapegoating of Vodou by Brooks and others perpetuates a racist colonial legacy, and it betrays an ignorance of the community and the abundant research about it.

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Racism and the Fear of “Voodoo”

During Reconstruction, lurid tales of African-derived religious practices in Louisiana made news all over the country—especially when worshipers included white women.

An illustration of a voodoo dance, 1883

There’s nothing like a horror story to concentrate and focus our deepest fears. As African American studies scholar Michelle Y. Gordon writes, that’s just what white newspapers in Louisiana did during Reconstruction, turning white supremacists’ worries about Black freedom into unsettling tales of “Voodoo.”

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Gordon notes that New Orleans did have real practitioners of Voudou —a synthesis of African religions and Roman Catholicism closely linked to Haitian Vodou. Through the nineteenth century, Black women often led its worship and magical practices. But the supposed eyewitness and secondhand accounts of Voodoo ceremonies in white papers had little to do with that belief system.

Newspapers promised stories of “Voudous on the Rampage” and “Full Particulars of the Hell-Broth and Orgies.” An 1870 account in New Orleans’ Daily Picayune described a female Voodoo leader demanding that her followers sacrifice animals, destroy crops, participate in sexual orgies, and ultimately participate in a “Lord’s Supper” consisting of her “own infant.”

In line with the techniques used by classic horror writers—such as noted 1920s racist H.P. Lovecraft—white journalists often referenced unnamable evils. The New York Evening Post , for example, insisted that printed accounts were “tame compared to their horrible midnight orgies […] which the white man is not allowed to witness.”

Gordon notes that the stories often made their political implications explicit. For instance, one 1869 Daily Picayune item warned of the “measureless influence” that Voodoo priests “will exercise on our executive and legislative authorities” with the election of Black leaders.

In the 1870s and ’80s, as white supremacist arguments became more focused on the “defense” of white women, Voodoo stories increasingly highlighted the presence of upper-class white women at the ceremonies. In an 1895 book, journalist and judge Henry Castellanos recalled an antebellum raid on a ritual:

Blacks and whites were circling round promiscuously, writhing in muscular contractions, panting, raving and frothing at the mouth. But the most degrading and infamous feature of this scene was the presence of a very large number of ladies (?), moving in the highest walks of society.

In Castellanos’s account, the arrest of one of these women prompted her husband to commit suicide the next day. In contrast, Gordon notes, many of the stories referenced participation by white male laborers with no particular concern.

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In the 1890s, Louisiana’s white supremacists rolled back much of the progress of Reconstruction. Lynchings peaked in 1896, and Black citizens were almost completely disenfranchised. As that happened, Gordon writes, accounts of Voodoo worship virtually disappeared from the local white papers. The stories reappeared in the Jim Crow era as historical accounts of the evils of Reconstruction.

Of course, Black journalists had never bought the white accounts of Voodoo. Through the Reconstruction years, Black papers across the country warned their readers that the “weird and ghastly” inventions of the white press were intended to bolster white supremacy. “For my part,” one 1889 New York Age editorial concludes, “I only wish that there was such a power as […] voudouism known to the Negroes of the South or elsewhere, that they might practice a little of it on their white adversaries.”

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Haiti: Possessed by Voodoo

In Haiti voodoo believers pray and perform animal sacrifices to feed and beckon the spirits. Then they dance until a spirit takes over their bodies and, it is said, heals them or offers advice.

The ceremony begins with a Roman Catholic prayer. Then three drummers begin to play syncopated rhythms. The attendees begin to dance around a tree in the center of the yard, moving faster and harder with the rising pulse of the beat. The priest draws sacred symbols in the dust with cornmeal, and rum is poured on the ground to honor the spirits.

One woman falls to the ground, convulsing for a moment before she is helped back to her feet. She resumes the dance, moving differently now, and continues dancing for hours. It is perhaps no longer she who is dancing: She is in a trance, apparently possessed by Erzuli, the great mother spirit.

It is an honor to be entered and "ridden" by a Loa, or spirit. In Haiti these rituals are commonplace: Voodoo is the dominant religion .

"One common saying is that Haitians are 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant, and 100 percent voodoo," said Lynne Warberg, a photographer who has documented Haitian voodoo for over a decade.

In April 2003 an executive decree by then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide sanctioned voodoo as an officially recognized religion.

"It is a religion in the same way Judaism or Christianity is," said Bob Corbett, professor emeritus of philosophy at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. "Voodoo doesn't have a sacred text, a church, or a hierarchical structure of leaders, but it is very similar culturally."

Ancient Traditions

Voodoo, meaning "spirit," may be one of the world's oldest ancestral, nature-honoring traditions, according to Mamaissii Vivian Dansi Hounon, a member of OATH, the Organization of African Traditional Healers in Martinez, Georgia.


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Some anthropologists estimate that voodoo's roots in Benin—formerly Dahomey—West Africa may go back 6,000 years. Today an estimated 60 million people practice voodoo worldwide.

At a voodoo ceremony, believers gather outdoors to make contact with the Loa, any of a pantheon of spirits who have various functions running the universe, much like Greek gods. There is also a responsibility to care for beloved and deified family spirits and to honor a chief god, Bondieu.

Messages From the Spirits

During the ceremony, the houngan or mambo— priest or priestess—sacrifices a sanctified chicken or other animal to the Loa. Participants then ask the spirits for advice or help with problems. More than half the requests are for health.

It is said that the Loa sometimes communicate prophecies, advice, or warnings while the believer is possessed. Other messages are sent through the priest or priestess, or sometimes come later in dreams.

These disembodied spirits are believed to become tired and worn down—and rely on humans to "feed" them in periodic rituals, including sacrifices. "It's not the killing of the animals that matters," Corbett said. "It's the transfer of life energy back to the Loa."

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Each of the spirits has a distinct identity. Some are loving and good, while others are capricious or demanding. Haitians believe that the Loa most often express their displeasure by making people sick.

Black Magic?

In the West voodoo has been portrayed in zombie movies and popular books as dark and evil, a cult of devil worship dominated by black magic, human sacrifice, and pin-stuck voodoo dolls—none of which exist in the voodoo practices that originated in Benin.

In Haiti voodoo began as an underground activity. During the 1700s thousands of West African slaves were shipped to Haiti to work on French plantations.

The slaves were baptized as Roman Catholics upon their arrival in the West Indies. Their traditional African religious practices were viewed as a threat to the colonial system and were forbidden. Practitioners were imprisoned, whipped, or hung.

But the slaves continued to practice in secret while attending masses. What emerged was a religion that the colonialists thought was Catholicism—but they were outfoxed.

Hybrid Rituals

It was easy to meld the two faiths, because there are many similarities between Roman Catholicism and voodoo, Corbett said. Both venerate a supreme being and believe in the existence of invisible evil spirits or demons and in an afterlife.

Each religion also focuses its ceremonies around a center point—an altar in Catholicism, a pole or tree in voodoo. Their services include symbolic or actual rituals of sacrifice and consumption of flesh and blood, Corbett noted.

Many of the Loa resemble Christian saints, endowed with similar responsibilities or attributes. For example, Legba, an old man, is said to open the gates between Earth and the world of the Loa, much like St. Peter traditionally throws wide the gates to heaven.

But there are differences. Westerners tend to believe in free will and personal choice. Not so in voodoo.

"The Haitian people have a view of the world that is unimaginably different from ours," Corbett said. The Loa are believed to determine our lives to an astonishing degree, he explains, and they are always present in great numbers: There might be two people in a room, but there are also 20 Loa.

"Our view is dominated by physical, touchable reality. In Haiti the spirits are as real as your wife or your dog," Corbett said.

Like any other religious practice, voodoo brings great benefits, explains Warberg, the photographer. "Participation in voodoo ritual reaffirms one's relationships with ancestors, personal history, community relationships—and the cosmos. Voodoo is a way of life," she said.

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Voodoo Death: A Scientific Perspective

The Rationality of Science

Voodoo is a set of cultural and religious practices often said to have originated in West Africa. There are various forms of voodoo, perhaps most prominently Haitian Vodou, which is a form of West African voodoo combined with Roman Catholicism. Voodoo is practiced mostly among native populations of Africa, Haiti, South America, and the Indies. In the United States, New Orleans is often identified as a place where it’s practiced, referred to there as Creole Voodoo. It involves a combination of beliefs and practices derived from West African religions, Roman Catholicism, and Haitian Vodou. Similar belief systems and practices can be found in parts of Australia, New Zealand, and various Pacific Islands (Benson 1979). Voodoo death, as defined by Walter B. Cannon, is an unexplained sudden death that occurs after a voodoo curse (Cannon 1942). 

Accounts of voodoo death are taken from anecdotes, case studies, and anthropological records. In his paper, “Voodoo Death,” Cannon illustrates case reports and highlights interviews with anthropologists and others living with primitive people who have experienced voodoo death. The paper highlights the often-frightening nature of voodoo death. These events, reported around the world, had several features in common. They were all induced by a belief that an external force—such as a wizard, shaman-like figure, or medicine man—could cause death, and the victim had no power to alter this outcome. This perceived lack of control over a powerful external force is common in all the cases Cannon described. Cannon asserted that voodoo death is a very real phenomenon that can be attributed to high levels of emotional stress that leads to negative physiological outcomes. Is there a scientific basis that could explain deaths seemingly caused by supernatural entities?

It is important to note that Cannon was a physiologist, so these claims of this seemingly magical death syndrome were being promoted by a respected man of science. You have probably heard about the flight-or-fight response, which was originally described by Cannon. It occurs in response to stress and involves activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The response prepares the body for action (increased arousal, increased use of bodily energy stores, increased blood pressure, etc.). A modern understanding of physiological response systems and interactions with emotions and stress is derived from the work of the late Walter Cannon. 

Scared to Death

Cannon asserted that an intense fear of death could itself lead to death. Cannon’s focus was on the sympathetic nervous system, one of the two major divisions of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is involved with functions of internal bodily organs; it includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Autonomic nerve cells are mostly under the control of automatic processes, even though some strategies can be used to gain voluntary control over the autonomic nervous system. As an example, voluntary breathing techniques may be used in controlling the sympathetic to parasympathetic balance. 

The sympathetic (arousing) system is highly activated with vigorous, action-oriented activity, intense emotions and stress, while the parasympathetic (calming) system is involved with slowing things down (relaxation response): rest and digest system (Kolb and Whishaw 2009). Chronically elevated levels of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity may lead to negative outcomes such as loss of appetite, heart malfunctioning, high blood glucose levels, anxiety, high blood pressure, and other health problems (Sternberg 2002). 

voodoo history research paper topics

The literature on voodoo death often cites a practice used by witch doctors in Australian aboriginal tribes called “pointing the bone.” A curse is placed on the victim by pointing a bone at them. The purpose of the curse is to disturb the spirit of the victim to the point that disease and death follow. Herbert Benson points out many deaths have been attributed to this sort of ritual (Benson 1979). In his book The Mind/Body Effect , Benson provides an account as told by Dr. Herbert Basedow of a frightened man who is the victim being cursed (sometimes referred to as “being boned”).

After providing a lengthy description of the behavior of the man, he points out that many examples of death characterized by specific physiological changes have resulted from bone pointing and similar rituals. However, for the curse to ensure death, the victim had to be aware they were being cursed, and they had to believe in the power of the curse. Some researchers have pointed out that voodoo death is an extreme example of a nocebo effect (Kirsch 1999). Nocebo effects are negative effects that are induced by nocebos: fake, nonspecific treatments, procedures, therapies, or medications. A primary mechanism of nocebo effects is negative expectation.  As one researcher noted:

Over the years since Cannon’s observations, evidence has accumulated to support his concept that ‘voodoo’ death is … a real phenomenon, but far from being limited to ancient peoples, may be a basic biologic principle that provides an important clue to understanding the phenomenon of sudden death in modern society. (Samuels 2007)

In his concluding remarks on voodoo death and similar phenomena, Herbert Benson asserts that death is probably due to cardiac malfunctioning, associated with problems of electrical signals sent to the heart. Cardiac malfunctioning is mediated “through and imbalance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.” These systems, in turn, are heavily influenced by emotions and thought processes. Voodoo death—though often considered controversial—has acquired enough evidence to indicate it is possible and can be explained by psychobiological mechanisms. There is no need to attach a supernatural, magical explanation for “voodoo death.”

Benson, H.B. 1979. The Mind/Body Effect . New York, NY: Simon And Schuster.

Canon, W.B. 1942. Voodoo death.  American Anthropologist 44(2): 169–181.

Kirsch, I. 1999. How Expectancies Shape Experience . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Kolb, B., and I. Whishaw. 2009. Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology, 6th ed. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.  

Samuels, M. 2007. Voodoo death revisited. The modern lessons of neurocardiology. Cleveland Clinical Journal of Medicine 74(1): S8–S16.

Sternberg, E.M. 2002. Walter B. Cannon and “voodoo death”: A perspective from 60 years on. American Journal of Public Heath 92(10): 1564–1566.  

Voodoo: Is It a Fact or Fiction? Research Paper

Voodoo as a religion has its roots in traditional African religions. It original name is Vodu, but that paved way for the more widespread name; Voodoo. Other names referring to it include “Voudou, Vaudau, Voudoux, or Vaudaux” (Tallant 9). Captured slaves from West Africa carried its essential ideology into Haiti, then to America.

The practice of Voodoo involves, “complicated rituals and symbols” (Riguad 7). It involves the worship of spiritual deities, with priests called papa loa, which means “father of the spirits” (Felix 21), and priestesses acting as intermediaries between the spiritual world, and humanity.

Some of them also operate as oracles, revealing spiritual mysteries to those who seek their services. The term Voodoo also describes a charm that has supernatural powers known as juju. Adherents believe that it acts as a protective force over them. They also use it to mete out revenge on their enemies. Voodoo therefore refers to an entire religious system and to certain specific aspects of its practice.

Voodoo picked pace from the practices of a snake cult in Haiti during the slave trade period. The cult came from West Africa and spread with slave trade, in the Americas and to Haiti. As new slave communities grew in the Americas, different religious identities amalgamated into a unified faith as the slave communities tried to forge a common belief system to unify them in their new locales.

Felix says, “Voodoo became the intermingling of essential attributes of all the religions of the different African tribes to which poorly assimilated elements of Catholicism were added” (20). Voodoo got its form in Haiti, which was an important station during slave trade.

Missionary efforts among the slaves saw them incorporate elements of Catholicism in practice of the Voodoo religion. In the process, some Voodoo spirits replaced catholic saints because of close relationships between their roles.

Currently, it is common to find prayers offered to Mary and other Catholic elements such as the Lord’s Prayer and the sign of the cross forming part of the Voodoo liturgy. In fact, many Voodoo adherents are staunch Catholics. In America, Voodoo practice first took place in New Orleans before spreading to other states. This was because of the role New Orleans played in slave trade.

The Voodoo belief system builds on the idea of an all-powerful impersonal Supreme Being responsible for creation of the entire universe, but who does not get involved in day-to-day running characterized by the affairs of men. The adherents worship lesser deities known as Loa who are animistic spirits. The initial practice of Voodoo revolved around slave communities that sought to retain the vital link with their ancestral heritage.

Present followers include descendants of these slaves spread throughout the Americas. In addition, tourists all over the world visit Voodoo priests and priestesses in America and Haiti to obtain special charms and amulets for all manner of purposes. Its practice involves praying, dancing, and ritualistic expressions. It is important to distinguish between faithful adherents who actually believe in power of Voodoo, and those who participate in Voodoo recreational purposes.

The use of dolls in Voodoo is the enduring image of the faith system though this is only a piece of the entire system. This view, propagated by Hollywood horror movies, depicts Voodoo priests as spiritual powerhouses using the dolls to control the outcome of an individual’s activities. There are a number of opponents to Voodoo who believe it is evil. Official catholic faith rejects Voodoo as demonic and considers use of saints in the Voodoo liturgy as syncretism.

The question of whether Voodoo is fact or fiction is hard to answer sufficiently using a scientific approach. It does not lend itself to purely scientific investigation to determine its efficacy. This is true for all faith-based systems. Evidence given by practicing Voodoo adherents does not meet criteria for objective study because they are likely to associate ordinary outcomes to their faith. It is difficult to dissociate outcomes of Voodoo mediated occurrences from random chance.

The Placebo effect also applies to Voodoo. Someone may actually experience a favorable outcome because of participation in Voodoo rituals based on their belief in the efficacy of the service received. Taking a healing portion from a Voodoo priest may result in better physical health. We can therefore conclude that Voodoo is effective to the extent that such outcomes portray a positive relationship to Voodoo practice.

Voodoo has had many tangible consequences in the world. The most notable was the drive towards independence by Haiti, which begun in earnest during a Voodoo festival, where all the participants took an oath to fight for independence. Consequently, Haiti became the first predominantly Negro nation to attain independence. Riguad also attest to some of the effects of voodoo practice when he says, “a curious moral consequence of the slave trade was the exaltation of the African religion by an increase of faith in the Voodoo divinities” (12).

Berry identifies one of the mystifying occurrences of Voodoo when he says, “One of the most spectacular features of Voodoo is ritual possession trance, in which saints (loa) enter into and “possess” the practitioner, who can either be a believer (with no special psychological problem), a patient, or a priest/doctor who seeks to heal”. This shows that Voodoo is not without its share of paranormal occurrences that science cannot fully explain.

Works Cited

Berry, John, et al. Cross-cultural psychology: research and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.

Felix, Emmanuel. Understanding Haitian Voodoo. USA: Xulon Press, 2009. Print

Riguad, Milo. Secrets of voodoo. New York: Lights Books, 1985. Print.

Tallant, Robert. Voodoo in New Orleans. Louisiana: Pelican Publishing, 1983. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2022, March 22). Voodoo: Is It a Fact or Fiction?

"Voodoo: Is It a Fact or Fiction?" IvyPanda , 22 Mar. 2022,

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Voodoo: Is It a Fact or Fiction'. 22 March.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Voodoo: Is It a Fact or Fiction?" March 22, 2022.

1. IvyPanda . "Voodoo: Is It a Fact or Fiction?" March 22, 2022.


IvyPanda . "Voodoo: Is It a Fact or Fiction?" March 22, 2022.

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Best History Research Paper Topics

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Dive into the world of historical scholarship with our comprehensive guide to the best history research paper topics . Primarily designed for students tasked with writing history research papers, this guide presents a curated list of 100 exceptional topics, divided into 10 distinct categories, each with a unique historical focus. The guide offers clear and practical advice on how to choose the most compelling history research paper topics, and provides 10 handy tips on crafting an outstanding research paper. In addition to academic guidance, the guide introduces the superior writing services of iResearchNet, a reliable option for students needing customized history research papers.

Comprehensive List of Best History Research Paper Topics

The following comprehensive list of the best history research paper topics is crafted to stimulate your curiosity and ignite your passion for historical study. These topics cover a range of historical periods and geographical locations to cater to the diverse interests of history students.

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Ancient History Topics

  • The Causes and Effects of the Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Daily Life in Ancient Egypt
  • The Influence of Alexander the Great’s Conquests on the Hellenistic World
  • The Role of Women in Spartan Society
  • The Construction and Significance of the Great Wall of China
  • The Impact of Confucianism on Ancient Chinese Society
  • Trade Routes and their Role in the Expansion of Ancient Civilizations
  • The Cultural and Political Influence of the Phoenician Civilization
  • Comparing Democracy in Ancient Greece to Modern Democracy
  • The Religious Practices and Beliefs of the Mayans

Medieval History Topics

  • The Role of the Catholic Church in Medieval Europe
  • The Impact of the Black Death on Medieval Society
  • The Cultural Significance of the Knights Templar
  • Gender Roles and Family Structure in Medieval Japan
  • The Causes and Consequences of the Hundred Years War
  • The Political Structure of the Byzantine Empire
  • The Influence of the Carolingian Renaissance on Europe
  • The Role of Vikings in European Trade and Exploration
  • The Crusades: Causes, Events, and Consequences
  • The Architecture and Symbolism of Gothic Cathedrals

Early Modern History Topics

  • The Causes and Effects of the Protestant Reformation
  • The Role of the Enlightenment in the French Revolution
  • The Impact of the Scientific Revolution on European Society
  • The Socioeconomic Consequences of the Industrial Revolution
  • The Influence of the Ottoman Empire on Southeast Europe
  • The Role of Slavery in the Colonial Economies
  • The Politics and Culture of the Renaissance in Italy
  • European Imperialism in Africa and Asia
  • The Cultural and Political Impacts of the Mughal Empire
  • The American Revolution: Causes, Events, and Legacy

Modern History Topics

  • The Causes and Global Consequences of World War I
  • The Great Depression: Causes and Effects
  • The Role of Propaganda in World War II
  • The Impact of the Cold War on International Relations
  • The Civil Rights Movement in the United States
  • The Fall of the Berlin Wall and the End of the Cold War
  • The Effects of Decolonization in the 20th Century
  • The Role of Women in the World Wars
  • The Formation and Impact of the European Union
  • The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Spring

Asian History Topics

  • The Cultural Impact of the Silk Road in Asia
  • The Effects of Colonial Rule in India
  • The Legacy of the Mongol Empire in Asia
  • The Cultural and Political Changes in China’s Cultural Revolution
  • The Korean War: Causes, Events, and Consequences
  • The Role of Samurai in Feudal Japan
  • The Impact of the Opium Wars on China
  • The Influence of Buddhism on Asian Cultures
  • The Cambodian Genocide under the Khmer Rouge
  • The Role of Gandhi in India’s Independence

American History Topics

  • The Impact of the New Deal on the American Economy
  • The Vietnam War: Causes, Events, and Legacy
  • The Influence of the Beat Generation on American Culture
  • The Role of Manifest Destiny in Westward Expansion
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis and Its Effects on the Cold War
  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States
  • The Native American Civil Rights Movement
  • The Role of the Transcontinental Railroad in American Expansion
  • The Civil War: Causes, Events, and Aftermath
  • The Immigration Wave at Ellis Island: Causes and Effects

European History Topics

  • The Impacts of the Russian Revolution
  • The Influence of Martin Luther’s Theses on Europe
  • The British Empire: Rise, Dominance, and Fall
  • The Role of Art in the French Revolution
  • The Impact of the Spanish Inquisition on Spain and its Colonies
  • The Rise and Influence of Fascism in Europe
  • The Role of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages
  • The Consequences of the Treaty of Versailles
  • The Formation and Impact of NATO
  • The Role of the Media in the Fall of the Berlin Wall

African History Topics

  • The Effects of Apartheid in South Africa
  • The Influence of the Trans-Saharan Trade on West African Societies
  • The Role of Nelson Mandela in Ending Apartheid
  • The Scramble for Africa and its Effects on the Continent
  • The Impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on West Africa
  • The Rwandan Genocide: Causes and Consequences
  • The Role of the African Union in Continental Politics
  • The Impact of Islam on North Africa
  • The Decolonization of Africa in the 20th Century
  • The Role of Women in Pre-Colonial African Societies

Military History Topics

  • The Influence of Technological Innovations on Warfare
  • The Role of the French Foreign Legion in Global Conflicts
  • The Impact of the Manhattan Project on World War II and Beyond
  • The Role of the Spartans in Ancient Greek Warfare
  • The Impact of Drones on Modern Warfare
  • The Influence of the English Longbow on Medieval Warfare
  • The Role of the Maginot Line in World War II
  • The Impact of Naval Power on the British Empire
  • The Influence of Nuclear Weapons on International Politics
  • The Role of Propaganda in World War I

This expansive list of best history research paper topics offers a comprehensive exploration of the past, crossing different eras, regions, and themes. They form a rich tapestry of human experience and a foundation for understanding our present and future. Choose a topic that piques your interest, ignites your curiosity, and promises a journey of intellectual discovery. Remember that the exploration of history is a journey into the roots of our shared humanity and an exploration of the forces that shape our world.

History and What Range of Best Research Paper Topics it Offers

As a subject of study, history is more than a chronological list of events, dates, and prominent figures. History is the exploration of human experiences, societal changes, political upheavals, cultural transformations, economic shifts, and technological advancements across different periods and regions. This exploration allows us to understand how the past has shaped our present and how it can potentially shape our future. It teaches us to appreciate the complexities and nuances of human nature and society, making history a rich field for research paper topics.

History is an interdisciplinary field, interweaving elements from various areas of study, including politics, sociology, economics, anthropology, geography, and literature. This interdisciplinary nature provides a wide array of best history research paper topics. Moreover, the global scope of history further broadens the pool of topics, as it encompasses every region of the world and every period from the dawn of human civilization to the present day.

Exploring Different Periods

Historical research often focuses on specific periods, each offering unique topics for exploration. For instance, Ancient History provides topics related to ancient civilizations like Rome, Greece, Egypt, China, and India, and key events such as Alexander the Great’s conquests or the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Medieval Period offers topics related to the socio-political structure of societies, the influence of religion, the impact of plagues, and the role of significant historical figures. Researching the Renaissance can focus on cultural, artistic, and scientific revolutions that have shaped the modern world.

The Modern History category contains topics related to significant events and transformations, such as world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War, decolonization, and various national and international movements.

Geographical Perspectives

Geographical focus is another common approach in historical research. Asian history encompasses topics ranging from the influence of Confucianism in China to the impact of colonial rule in India. European history explores events such as the Enlightenment, the French and Russian revolutions, and the formation of the European Union. American history topics can cover everything from Manifest Destiny to the Civil Rights Movement. African history can delve into the effects of the Atlantic Slave Trade, the apartheid era, and decolonization.

Thematic Approaches

In addition to period- and region-based topics, history offers an extensive range of thematic topics. These themes often intersect with other disciplines, leading to exciting interdisciplinary research opportunities.

Social and cultural history, for instance, covers diverse topics such as the influence of the Harlem Renaissance on African American culture, the counterculture movement of the 1960s, the role of film and television in shaping societies, or the impacts of the Internet on global culture.

Military history provides a wide range of topics related to warfare, strategy, technological developments, and the influence of military conflicts on societies and politics. From the use of the English longbow in medieval warfare to the impact of drones on modern warfare, this field offers a variety of fascinating topics.

Making the Right Choice

The choice of a research paper topic in history should ideally be guided by your interest, the available resources, and the requirements of your assignment. With such a wide range of topics, it can be challenging to make a choice. But remember, a good history research paper topic is not just about the past; it should also engage with the present and potentially shed light on the future. The best research paper topics are those that not only delve deep into the annals of history but also resonate with current issues and debates.

The study of history is a gateway into the vast narrative of human civilization. With an extensive range of periods, regions, and themes to choose from, history offers a rich reservoir of research paper topics. As we delve into the past, we discover the forces that have shaped our world, gain insights into the human experience, and glean lessons for our future. This journey of exploration makes history an incredibly exciting field for research papers.

How to Choose Best History Research Paper Topics

Choosing the best history research paper topic can be the first step towards a rewarding intellectual journey. It’s not just about meeting academic requirements; it’s about uncovering facets of the past that intrigue you and may potentially contribute to the broader understanding of history. Here are twenty in-depth tips that will guide you through the process and help you select the best topic for your history research paper.

  • Understand the Assignment: Understanding your assignment’s requirements is the primary and most critical step in selecting a topic. Take time to carefully read the guidelines given by your instructor. Are there any specific historical periods, geographical regions, or themes you are required to focus on? Do the instructions indicate the scope or complexity level of the topic? Comprehending the parameters set by your instructor will significantly narrow down your options.
  • Choose a Time Period: One way to approach the topic selection is by focusing on a particular time period that sparks your interest. It could be anything from the Bronze Age, to the Renaissance, to World War II. The more interested you are in the chosen time period, the more engaged you will be in the research process.
  • Pick a Region: Similar to choosing a time period, selecting a particular region or country can also help narrow down potential topics. Are you fascinated by the history of East Asia, intrigued by ancient Egypt, or drawn to the socio-political history of Europe? Starting with a geographic focus can provide a strong foundation for your research.
  • Identify a Theme: In addition to or instead of a time period or region, you might want to choose a theme that you wish to explore. Themes can range from political history, cultural history, history of science and technology, to gender history, among others. A thematic approach can offer a unique perspective and can even allow you to cross over different time periods or regions.
  • Conduct Preliminary Research: Even before you have a firm topic in hand, engage in some preliminary research. This could involve reviewing textbooks, scholarly articles, or reputable online resources related to your chosen period, region, or theme. Preliminary research can give you a general sense of the historical context and inspire potential topics.
  • Seek Inspiration from Existing Works: As part of your preliminary research, look at other research papers, theses, or dissertations in your area of interest. This can give you a good idea of what has been done, what gaps exist in the research, and where your research could potentially fit in.
  • Scope Your Topic: The scope of your topic should be proportionate to the length and depth of your paper. If your paper is relatively short, a narrow, focused topic would be more suitable. For a longer and more complex paper, a broader topic that explores multiple facets or perspectives would be more appropriate.
  • Consider the Relevance: Another aspect to consider when selecting a topic is its relevance. Does the topic have any relation to the course you are undertaking? Does it reflect on current historical or social debates? A topic that connects your historical research to broader academic or social issues can make your paper more impactful and engaging.
  • Look for Unique Angles: While not every research paper can revolutionize the field, striving for some degree of originality in your work is always a good practice. Look for unique angles, underexplored areas, or new perspectives on a well-trodden topic. Presenting a fresh approach can make your paper more interesting for both you and your readers.
  • Assess the Availability of Sources: Your research paper is only as good as your sources. Before finalizing your topic, make sure there are enough primary and secondary sources available to you. This could be in the form of books, academic articles, documentary films, archives, databases, or digital resources.
  • Evaluate the Feasibility: Beyond the availability of sources, consider other practical aspects of your chosen topic. Is it feasible to conduct the research within the given time frame? Is the topic too complex or too simplistic for your current academic level? A realistic evaluation of these factors at an early stage can save you a lot of time and effort down the line.
  • Reflect on Your Interests: Above all, select a topic that genuinely piques your curiosity. A research paper is a significant undertaking, and your interest in the topic will sustain you through potential challenges. If you are passionate about the topic, it will reflect in your writing and make your paper more compelling.
  • Solicit Feedback: Seek advice from your instructor, classmates, or any other knowledgeable individuals. They may be able to provide valuable feedback, point out potential pitfalls, or suggest different perspectives that can enrich your research.
  • Be Flexible: Be prepared to tweak, adjust, or even overhaul your topic as you delve deeper into the research process. New information or insights may emerge that shift your focus or challenge your initial assumptions.
  • Bridge the Past and Present: Try to find topics that allow you to connect historical events or phenomena with contemporary issues. This can provide additional depth to your paper and may also appeal to a broader audience.
  • Consult Specialized Encyclopedias and Guides: These can provide overviews of various topics and can often suggest areas for research. They also offer bibliographies which can serve as a starting point for your research.
  • Draft a Preliminary Thesis Statement: Once you have a potential topic, try drafting a preliminary thesis statement. This can help you focus your ideas and give you a clear direction for your research.
  • Ensure Your Topic Meets the Assignment Goals: Check back with your assignment guidelines to make sure your chosen topic meets all the requirements. It’s a good idea to do this before you start your in-depth research.
  • Be Ready to Invest Time and Effort: Choose a topic that you are ready to spend time on. Remember, you will be working on this topic for an extended period, so choose something that you find interesting and engaging.
  • Enjoy the Process: Finally, remember that the process of researching and writing a history paper can be a source of enjoyment and intellectual satisfaction. Choose a topic that not only meets academic requirements but also gives you a sense of accomplishment and discovery.

Choosing the best history research paper topic is not merely about fulfilling an academic requirement. It’s about setting the stage for a journey into the past, an exploration of humanity’s collective memory. The right topic will not only make this journey enjoyable but also deeply enlightening. By considering these tips, you can select a topic that resonates with you and holds the potential for a meaningful scholarly contribution.

How to Write a Best History Research Paper

Writing a history research paper can be a rewarding experience, providing an opportunity to delve into the past and explore the events, ideas, and personalities that have shaped our world. However, crafting a high-quality paper requires more than just an interest in the subject matter. It involves thorough research, analytical thinking, and clear, persuasive writing. Here are twenty comprehensive tips on how to write a best history research paper.

  • Understand the Assignment: Begin by thoroughly understanding the assignment. Ensure you grasp the requirements, the scope of the paper, the format, and the deadline. Clear any doubts with your professor or peers before you start.
  • Select a Suitable Topic: As discussed earlier, choosing an appropriate topic is crucial. It should be engaging, manageable, and meet the assignment’s requirements. Consider your interests, the available resources, and the paper’s scope when choosing the topic.
  • Conduct In-Depth Research: Once the topic is decided, embark on thorough research. Use a variety of sources, such as books, academic journals, credible online sources, primary sources, and documentaries. Remember to take notes and record the sources for citation purposes.
  • Formulate a Thesis Statement: The thesis statement is the central argument or point of your paper. It should be clear, concise, and debatable, providing a roadmap for your entire paper. The thesis statement should guide your research and each main point you make in your paper should support this central idea.
  • Create an Outline: An outline helps organize your thoughts and arguments. Typically, it should include an introduction (with the thesis statement), body paragraphs (with topic sentences), and a conclusion. Each point in your outline should be a reflection of your thesis statement.
  • Start with a Strong Introduction: The introduction should be engaging, provide some background on the topic, and include the thesis statement. It sets the tone for the rest of your paper, so make it compelling and informative.
  • Develop Body Paragraphs: Each body paragraph should focus on one main idea that supports your thesis. Begin with a topic sentence, provide evidence or arguments, and then conclude the paragraph by linking it back to your thesis. Be clear and concise in your arguments.
  • Use Evidence Effectively: Support your arguments with evidence from your research. This could include quotations, statistics, or primary source materials. Remember to interpret the evidence and explain its relevance to your argument.
  • Maintain a Logical Flow: The ideas in your paper should flow logically from one point to the next. Use transitional words and phrases to maintain continuity and help guide your reader through your paper.
  • Write a Compelling Conclusion: Your conclusion should sum up your main points, restate the thesis in light of the evidence provided, and possibly offer areas for further research or a concluding insight. It should leave the reader with something to think about.
  • Cite Your Sources: Always cite your sources properly. This not only gives credit where it’s due but also strengthens your argument by indicating the breadth of your research. Ensure you follow the required citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Revise for Clarity and Coherence: After finishing your initial draft, revise your work. Check for clarity, coherence, and consistency of argument. Ensure each paragraph has a clear focus, and that the paragraphs flow smoothly from one idea to the next.
  • Proofread: Proofread your paper for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Such errors can distract from the content and undermine your credibility as a writer. Reading your paper aloud or having someone else read it can help catch errors you might have missed.
  • Seek Feedback: Before finalizing your paper, consider seeking feedback from your professor, peers, or a writing center tutor. They can provide valuable perspectives and suggestions for improvement that you might not have considered.
  • Write in a Formal Academic Style: Your paper should be written in a formal academic style. Avoid slang, colloquialisms, and overly complex language. Be clear, concise, and precise in your expression.
  • Avoid Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. Ensure that all ideas and words that are not your own are properly cited. When in doubt, it’s better to over-cite than to under-cite.
  • Stay Objective: A good history paper is objective and does not include personal opinions or biases. It relies on facts and evidence, and presents balanced arguments. Stick to the evidence and avoid emotional language.
  • Be Original: Strive for originality in your argument and interpretation. While your topic might not be entirely new, your perspective on it can be. Don’t be afraid to challenge established interpretations if you have evidence to support your argument.
  • Use Primary Sources Wisely: Primary sources are invaluable in historical research. However, remember that they should be used to support your argument, not to construct it. Your analysis and interpretation of the sources are what matters.
  • Enjoy the Process: Finally, remember to enjoy the process. Writing a research paper is not just an academic exercise, but a journey into the past. It’s a chance to learn, explore, and contribute to our understanding of history.

In conclusion, writing a best history research paper requires careful planning, thorough research, clear writing, and detailed revision. However, the process can be highly rewarding, leading to new insights and a deeper understanding of history. These tips provide a comprehensive guide to help you craft a top-notch history research paper. Remember, history is a continually evolving dialogue, and your paper is your chance to join the conversation.

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300+ American History Research Paper Topics

American History Research Paper Topics

American history is a vast and complex subject that encompasses a wide range of events, movements, and individuals who have shaped the country’s past and present. From the struggles for independence and civil rights to the exploration and settlement of the continent, American history provides an abundance of topics for research papers . Whether you’re interested in politics, social issues, cultural trends, or military history, there are numerous topics to choose from that will help you delve deeper into the fascinating story of the United States. In this arcticle, we will explore some of the most compelling and thought-provoking American history topics that you can choose to explore in your own research .

American History Research Paper Topics

American History Research Paper Topics are as follows:

  • The Salem witch trials: religious hysteria and persecution.
  • The California Gold Rush: immigration and economic boom.
  • The Harlem Renaissance: cultural movements and African American creativity.
  • The Stonewall riots: LGBTQ+ rights and activism.
  • The Underground Railroad: abolitionist movement and escape from slavery.
  • The New York City Draft Riots: racial tensions and class conflict during the Civil War.
  • The Battle of Little Bighorn: Native American resistance and US expansionism.
  • The Scopes Monkey Trial: evolution and religion in the public school system.
  • The assassination of Abraham Lincoln: political upheaval and the aftermath.
  • The Bracero Program: labor migration and Mexican American relations.
  • The Japanese American internment: civil liberties and government policies during WWII.
  • The Black Panthers: civil rights and revolutionary politics.
  • The Montgomery bus boycott: racial segregation and nonviolent protest.
  • The War of 1812: US-British relations and national identity.
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: US involvement in Vietnam and presidential power.
  • The Trail of Tears: forced relocation of Native Americans and government policy.
  • The Louisiana Purchase: westward expansion and territorial acquisition.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation: Abraham Lincoln and the end of slavery.
  • The Boston Tea Party: colonial resistance and the American Revolution.
  • The Haymarket Riot: labor movements and the struggle for workers’ rights.
  • The Sacco and Vanzetti trial: political prejudice and the justice system.
  • The Nixon administration and Watergate: political corruption and media coverage.
  • The Battle of Gettysburg: turning point in the Civil War and military strategy.
  • The United States’ entry into WWI: neutrality and international relations.
  • The assassination of JFK: conspiracy theories and the impact on American politics.
  • The Montgomery GI Bill: post-WWII veterans’ benefits and education.
  • The 1968 Democratic National Convention: anti-war protests and police brutality.
  • The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster: NASA and government accountability.
  • The Wounded Knee Massacre: Native American activism and government response.
  • The Oklahoma City bombing: domestic terrorism and extremism.
  • The Pentagon Papers: government secrecy and media freedom.
  • The American eugenics movement: racial science and government policy.
  • The Zoot Suit Riots: racial tensions and discrimination in WWII-era Los Angeles.
  • The Tet Offensive: turning point in the Vietnam War and media coverage.
  • The 1920s: flappers, jazz music, and cultural transformation.
  • The Seneca Falls Convention: women’s suffrage and gender equality.
  • The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.: civil rights and the struggle for racial justice.
  • The Tea Party movement: conservative populism and political polarization.
  • The space race and the moon landing: US-Soviet competition and national pride.
  • The Gulf War: US military action in the Middle East and international relations.
  • The Hurricane Katrina disaster: government response and racial inequality.
  • The Rodney King verdict and LA riots: police brutality and racial justice.
  • The Iran-Contra scandal: government corruption and foreign policy.
  • The civil rights movement and the Freedom Riders: nonviolent protest and desegregation.
  • The Flint water crisis: environmental racism and government negligence.
  • The Occupy Wall Street movement: economic inequality and social justice.
  • The AIDS epidemic: public health crisis and societal attitudes.
  • The American Revolution: causes and consequences.
  • The impact of slavery on the development of the United States.
  • The Reconstruction Era: successes and failures.
  • The Civil War: social, political, and economic impacts.
  • The women’s suffrage movement: progress and setbacks.
  • The rise of industrialization and its impact on society.
  • The Progressive Era: reforms and political changes.
  • The New Deal: success or failure?
  • The impact of the Great Depression on American society.
  • The Second World War: America’s involvement and impact.
  • The Cold War: the US and Soviet Union’s global influence.
  • The civil rights movement: leaders and strategies.
  • The Vietnam War: political, social, and cultural impacts.
  • The Watergate scandal: corruption and the presidency.
  • The Reagan Revolution: conservatism and change.
  • The Gulf War: America’s role in international conflict.
  • The 9/11 terrorist attacks: effects on domestic and foreign policy.
  • The Obama presidency: achievements and controversies.
  • The rise of Silicon Valley: technology and innovation.
  • The labor movement: unionization and workers’ rights.
  • The Trail of Tears: the forced relocation of Native Americans.
  • The Mormon migration: religious freedom and settlement.
  • The gold rush: economic and social impacts.
  • The women’s liberation movement: progress and setbacks.
  • The rise of the suburbs: lifestyle changes and the American Dream.
  • The Harlem Renaissance: cultural and artistic movements.
  • The Dust Bowl: environmental disasters and migration.
  • The Ku Klux Klan: racism and terror in America.
  • The rise of the Christian Right: religion and politics.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis: America and the Soviet Union on the brink of war.
  • The Manhattan Project: the development of nuclear weapons.
  • The Bay of Pigs invasion: US foreign policy in Latin America.
  • The Space Race: America’s competition with the Soviet Union.
  • The Black Power movement: self-determination and political activism.
  • The Stonewall riots: the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.
  • The War on Drugs: the impact on minority communities.
  • The rise of hip hop: cultural expression and social commentary.
  • The Iraq War: America’s intervention in the Middle East.
  • The Tea Party movement: populism and conservative politics.
  • The Dakota Access Pipeline protests: Indigenous rights and environmentalism.
  • The #MeToo movement: sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
  • The 2020 presidential election: controversies and historical significance.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic: social, economic, and political impacts.
  • The climate crisis: America’s role in mitigating global warming.
  • The opioid epidemic: public health crisis and government response.
  • The gig economy: labor rights and the changing nature of work.
  • The immigration debate: policies and social attitudes towards immigrants.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement: racial justice and police reform.
  • The Battle of Antietam: bloodiest day in American history and its impact on the Civil War.
  • The Salem Witch Trials: causes and consequences of the infamous witch hunt.
  • The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment: examining the unethical medical study conducted on African American men.
  • The Stonewall Riots: analyzing the LGBTQ+ rights movement and the impact of the Stonewall uprising.
  • The Bay of Pigs Invasion: evaluating the failed US attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba.
  • The Battle of Little Bighorn: examining the conflict between the US Army and Native American tribes.
  • The Red Scare: analyzing the fear of communism in the US during the Cold War.
  • The Manhattan Project: evaluating the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.
  • The Seneca Falls Convention: examining the first women’s rights convention and its impact on American society.
  • The My Lai Massacre: analyzing the massacre of Vietnamese civilians by US soldiers during the Vietnam War.
  • The Treaty of Versailles: evaluating the impact of the treaty that ended World War I.
  • The Dust Bowl Migration: examining the migration of farmers from the Great Plains to California during the Great Depression.
  • The Black Lives Matter Movement: analyzing the movement for racial justice and police reform in the US.
  • The Oregon Trail: examining the westward expansion of the US and the impact of the Oregon Trail.
  • The 1968 Democratic National Convention: evaluating the protests and violence that occurred during the convention.
  • The Indian Removal Act: examining the forced relocation of Native American tribes in the 1830s.
  • The Great Society: evaluating the social and economic reforms of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • The Wounded Knee Massacre: analyzing the US Army’s killing of Native American men, women, and children in 1890.
  • The Ku Klux Klan: examining the rise and fall of the white supremacist group.
  • The Gadsden Purchase: evaluating the US acquisition of land from Mexico in 1853.
  • The Second Great Awakening: analyzing the religious revival of the early 19th century and its impact on American society.
  • The Haymarket Riot: examining the labor unrest and violence that occurred during the 1886 Chicago labor rally.
  • The Dust Bowl Art: analyzing the art and literature inspired by the Great Plains drought.
  • The Roe v. Wade Decision: evaluating the impact of the landmark Supreme Court decision on abortion rights.
  • The Salem Customs House: examining the significance of the customs house in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Scarlet Letter.”
  • The Homestead Strike: analyzing the violent labor dispute that occurred at the Carnegie Steel Company in 1892.
  • The War of 1812: evaluating the US conflict with Great Britain and its impact on American society.
  • The Sacco and Vanzetti Trial: examining the controversial trial of two Italian immigrants in the 1920s.
  • The Scopes Monkey Trial: evaluating the trial that pitted science against religion in the 1920s.
  • The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty: examining the US treaty with Panama that led to the construction of the Panama Canal.
  • The Bonus Army: analyzing the World War I veterans who marched on Washington, D.C. to demand government benefits.
  • The O.J. Simpson Trial: evaluating the impact of the high-profile murder trial on American culture.
  • The Iran-Contra Affair: examining the political scandal that involved the US selling weapons to Iran and using the profits to fund anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua.
  • The Buffalo Soldiers: analyzing the history of the African American soldiers who served in the western frontier.
  • The American Civil War: examining the factors that led to the conflict.
  • The New Deal: evaluating the impact of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic policies.
  • The Space Race: the competition between the US and Soviet Union to explore space.
  • The Vietnam War: analyzing the US involvement in the conflict.
  • The American Revolution: evaluating the role of key figures like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
  • The Civil Rights Movement: examining the fight for racial equality in the US.
  • The Gold Rush: exploring the impact of the California Gold Rush on American society.
  • The Watergate Scandal: the political scandal that brought down President Nixon.
  • The Great Migration: analyzing the movement of African Americans from the South to Northern cities.
  • The Harlem Renaissance: examining the cultural and artistic movement of the 1920s.
  • The Trail of Tears: evaluating the forced removal of Native American tribes from their lands.
  • The Cold War: analyzing the political and economic tensions between the US and Soviet Union.
  • The Industrial Revolution: examining the changes brought about by industrialization in the US.
  • The Boston Tea Party: evaluating the impact of the colonial protest against British taxation.
  • The Underground Railroad: analyzing the network that helped slaves escape to freedom.
  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement: examining the fight for women’s right to vote.
  • The Dust Bowl: evaluating the environmental and economic impact of the Great Plains drought.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation: analyzing Lincoln’s decision to free slaves in Confederate states.
  • The Transatlantic Slave Trade: examining the forced migration of Africans to the US.
  • The Louisiana Purchase: analyzing the impact of the US acquisition of Louisiana from France.
  • The Spanish Flu Pandemic: examining the global pandemic that killed millions.
  • The Attack on Pearl Harbor: evaluating the impact of the Japanese attack on the US.
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott: analyzing the nonviolent protest against segregated public transportation.
  • The Panama Canal: examining the construction of the canal and its impact on international trade.
  • The Salem Maritime Trade: analyzing the economic and social impact of maritime trade in the colonial period.
  • The Cuban Revolution: examining the overthrow of Batista and the rise of Fidel Castro.
  • The Iraq War: analyzing the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • The New York City Draft Riots: evaluating the racial and class tensions that led to the riots.
  • The Black Panther Party: examining the political and social impact of the Black Panther movement.
  • The American West: analyzing the expansion and settlement of the American West.
  • The Berlin Wall: examining the construction and fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • The 19th Amendment: evaluating the impact of women’s right to vote on American society.
  • The United States and the United Nations: analyzing the US involvement in the UN.
  • The Jim Crow Laws: examining the laws that enforced racial segregation in the US.
  • The Bracero Program: analyzing the US-Mexico labor agreement during World War II.
  • The Korean War: evaluating the US involvement in the conflict.
  • The Alamo: examining the battle that became a symbol of Texas independence.
  • The Assassination of JFK: analyzing the impact of the assassination on American politics and society.
  • The Great Chicago Fire: evaluating the impact of the fire that destroyed much of Chicago in 1871.
  • The Americanization Movement: examining the movement that sought to assimilate immigrants into American culture.
  • The Spanish American War: US imperialism and expansion in the late 19th century.
  • The Red Scare: political repression and the fear of communism in the 20th century.
  • The National Parks system: conservation and environmentalism in the US.
  • The Women’s Liberation Movement: feminism and gender equality in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • The Brown v. Board of Education decision: landmark ruling on desegregation in public schools.
  • The Gulf of Mexico oil spill: environmental disaster and corporate responsibility.
  • The American Revolution: causes, major events, and legacy.
  • The Great Depression: economic crisis and government response in the 1930s.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964: legislative landmark in the struggle for racial justice.
  • The Dust Bowl: ecological disaster and its impact on American agriculture.
  • The Waco Siege: government overreach and religious extremism.
  • The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire: workplace safety and labor reform.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement: police brutality and racial justice in the 21st century.
  • The Homestead Strike: labor dispute and the fight for workers’ rights.
  • The Panama Canal: engineering marvel and US influence in Central America.
  • The Marshall Plan: US aid to Europe after World War II and the Cold War.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis: nuclear brinksmanship and US-Soviet relations.
  • The Montgomery Improvement Association: nonviolent resistance and the bus boycott.
  • The Roe v. Wade decision: reproductive rights and the women’s movement.
  • The My Lai Massacre: war crimes and US military conduct in Vietnam.
  • The Salem-Keizer school desegregation case: busing and the limits of integration.
  • The Flint sit-down strike: labor unrest and unionization in the auto industry.
  • The transcontinental railroad: westward expansion and economic growth.
  • The Iranian Hostage Crisis: US foreign policy and Middle East tensions.
  • The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty: US control of the Panama Canal and sovereignty issues.
  • The Black Sox Scandal: corruption and gambling in Major League Baseball.
  • The Freedom Summer: civil rights activism and voter registration in the South.
  • The Salem maritime trade: piracy and international commerce in the colonial period.
  • The Stono Rebellion: slave rebellion and resistance in South Carolina.
  • The Alaska Purchase: US acquisition of Alaska and its impact on Native Alaskans.
  • The United States and the League of Nations: US foreign policy and internationalism.
  • The Chicago Seven trial: political dissent and government repression during the Vietnam War.
  • The Reagan Revolution: conservative politics and the changing face of American politics.
  • The American Indian Movement: Native American rights and activism.
  • The Battle of Bull Run: first major battle of the Civil War and its impact.
  • The Wounded Knee Occupation: Native American sovereignty and government response.
  • The Whiskey Rebellion: taxation and the limits of federal authority in the early US.
  • The Iran-Iraq War: US involvement and Middle East politics.
  • The United States and the Cold War: US-Soviet relations and the arms race.
  • The Ku Klux Klan: white supremacy and domestic terrorism in American history.
  • The Battle of Midway: turning point in World War II and military strategy.
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott: analyzing the civil rights movement and its impact on segregation in the South.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis: evaluating the US and Soviet Union’s tense standoff in 1962.
  • The Trail of Tears: examining the forced removal of Native American tribes from their lands in the 1830s.
  • The Space Race: analyzing the competition between the US and Soviet Union to explore space.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation: evaluating the impact of President Lincoln’s proclamation on slavery during the Civil War.
  • The Black Panthers: examining the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • The Harlem Renaissance: analyzing the cultural movement that celebrated African American art, literature, and music in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • The Korean War: evaluating the US and UN’s conflict with North Korea and China in the 1950s.
  • The Boston Tea Party: examining the protest that sparked the American Revolution.
  • The National Parks System: analyzing the history and impact of the National Parks System in the US.
  • The New Deal: evaluating President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s economic reforms during the Great Depression.
  • The Black Codes: examining the laws passed in Southern states after the Civil War to restrict the rights of African Americans.
  • The Watergate Scandal: analyzing the political scandal that led to the resignation of President Nixon.
  • The War on Drugs: evaluating the US government’s policies and actions to combat drug use and trafficking.
  • The McCarthy Hearings: examining the anti-communist hearings led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
  • The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: analyzing the disaster and its impact on the city and American society.
  • The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: examining the tragedy that led to significant labor reforms in the early 20th century.
  • The Rodney King Riots: analyzing the 1992 riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of police officers in the beating of Rodney King.
  • The Transcontinental Railroad: evaluating the construction of the railroad and its impact on American transportation and commerce.
  • The New York Draft Riots: examining the violent protests against the Civil War draft in New York City in 1863.
  • The Tulsa Race Massacre: analyzing the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma and its aftermath.
  • The 1918 Influenza Pandemic: examining the deadly global pandemic and its impact on American society.
  • The Battle of Gettysburg: evaluating the pivotal Civil War battle and its impact on the war and American history.
  • The Mexican-American War: analyzing the US conflict with Mexico and its impact on American expansion.
  • The American Indian Movement: examining the Native American organization and its activism for Indigenous rights.
  • The War in Iraq: evaluating the US-led war in Iraq and its impact on US foreign policy.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964: analyzing the landmark legislation that prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  • The Jim Crow Laws: examining the laws that enforced racial segregation in the South after the Civil War.
  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement: evaluating the fight for women’s right to vote in the US.
  • The Anti-Vietnam War Movement: analyzing the protests and activism against the US involvement in the Vietnam War.
  • The Donner Party: examining the ill-fated wagon train journey and its impact on westward expansion.
  • The Great Migration: analyzing the mass movement of African Americans from the South to the North and West in the early 20th century.
  • The Red Scare: examining the anti-communist hysteria in the US during the Cold War era.
  • The Alamo: evaluating the 1836 battle in Texas and its significance in American history.
  • The Cuban Revolution: analyzing the revolution led by Fidel Castro and its impact on US-Cuban relations.
  • The Dust Bowl: examining the environmental disaster that devastated the Great Plains in the 1930s.
  • The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.: analyzing the impact of the civil rights leader’s death on American society.
  • The California Gold Rush: evaluating the rush of people to California in search of gold in 1849.
  • The Salem Witch Trials: examining the 1692 witch hunt and its impact on American society.
  • The Reconstruction Era: analyzing the period of US history following the Civil War that aimed to rebuild the South and integrate newly freed slaves into society.
  • The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster: evaluating the tragic 1986 event that claimed the lives of seven astronauts.
  • The Great Society: examining President Lyndon B. Johnson’s domestic policies in the 1960s and their impact on American society.
  • The Bataan Death March: analyzing the brutal forced march of American and Filipino prisoners of war by the Japanese in World War II.
  • The Detroit Race Riot: examining the violent 1967 riots in Detroit and their impact on American race relations.
  • The Wounded Knee Massacre: analyzing the 1890 massacre of Sioux Indians by US troops and its impact on Native American relations with the US government.
  • The Spanish-American War: evaluating the US conflict with Spain in 1898 and its impact on American imperialism.
  • The Cold War: examining the geopolitical tensions between the US and Soviet Union from 1945-1991.
  • The Underground Railroad: evaluating the network of secret routes and safe houses used to help enslaved people escape to freedom in the 19th century.
  • The Tuskegee Airmen: examining the all-Black fighter squadron that served in World War II and their impact on American history.
  • The Boston Massacre: analyzing the 1770 event in which British soldiers killed five colonists and its impact on American revolutionary sentiment.
  • The 1968 Democratic National Convention: examining the protests and clashes between police and anti-war demonstrators during the convention.
  • The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision: evaluating the landmark decision legalizing abortion in the US in 1973.
  • The Louisiana Territory: analyzing the US acquisition of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803.
  • The Stock Market Crash of 1929: examining the causes and impact of the crash that led to the Great Depression.
  • The Lusitania sinking: analyzing the 1915 sinking of a British passenger ship by a German submarine and its impact on American entry into World War I.
  • The Second Great Awakening: evaluating the religious revival movement in the US in the early 19th century and its impact on American society.
  • The Black Panthers: analyzing the impact of the Black Panther Party on the civil rights movement and American society in the 1960s.
  • The Mexican-American War: examining the US conflict with Mexico in the 1840s and its impact on US expansionism.
  • The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire: analyzing the 1911 tragedy and its impact on workplace safety regulations.
  • The Transcontinental Railroad: evaluating the building of the railroad in the late 19th century and its impact on American transportation and economy.
  • The Stono Rebellion: examining the 1739 slave uprising in South Carolina and its impact on American slavery laws.
  • The Battle of Gettysburg: analyzing the 1863 battle and its significance in the Civil War.
  • The Black Sox Scandal: evaluating the 1919 scandal in which members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team were accused of throwing the World Series.
  • The Oregon Trail: examining the westward expansion of American settlers to the Pacific Northwest in the 19th century.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964: analyzing the landmark legislation outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  • The Indian Removal Act: evaluating the 1830 law that authorized the forced removal of Native American tribes from their lands in the Southeastern US.
  • The Battle of Antietam: analyzing the 1862 battle and its impact on the Civil War.
  • The Iran-Contra Affair: examining the political scandal involving the Reagan administration’s secret arms sales to Iran and illegal funding of Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
  • The Pullman Strike: analyzing the 1894 labor strike by railway workers and its impact on American labor laws.
  • The 1920s: examining the cultural, social, and political changes that occurred during the “Roaring Twenties.”
  • The Battle of Little Bighorn: analyzing the 1876 battle between US forces and Sioux and Cheyenne warriors and its impact on Native American relations with the US government.
  • The Montgomery GI Bill: evaluating the legislation that provided education and training benefits to US veterans after World War II.
  • The Black Codes: examining the laws enacted in the South after the Civil War that restricted the rights and freedoms of newly freed slaves.
  • The Korean War: analyzing the US involvement in the conflict and its impact on American foreign policy.
  • The Seneca Falls Convention: evaluating the 1848 convention advocating for women’s suffrage and its impact on the women’s rights movement.
  • The Bay of Pigs Invasion: examining the failed 1961 US attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba.
  • The Homestead Strike: analyzing the 1892 labor strike by steelworkers and its impact on American labor relations.
  • The Gadsden Purchase: evaluating the US acquisition of land from Mexico in 1853 and its impact on American territorial expansion.
  • The Harlem Renaissance: examining the cultural and artistic movement in the 1920s and 1930s that celebrated Black creativity and identity.
  • The Fourteenth Amendment: analyzing the constitutional amendment that granted citizenship and equal protection under the law to all persons born or naturalized in the US.
  • The Battle of New Orleans: evaluating the 1815 battle in which American forces led by Andrew Jackson defeated British troops and its impact on American nationalism.
  • The Birmingham Campaign: analyzing the 1963 civil rights campaign in Alabama and its impact on the movement.
  • The Pullman Palace Car Company: examining the company’s history and impact on American railroad travel and labor relations.

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  1. Voodoo History

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  1. Haitian Vodou and Voodoo: Imagined Religion and Popular Culture

    Abstract. Vodou is frequently invoked as a cause of Haiti's continued impoverishment. While scholarly arguments have been advanced for why this is untrue, Vodou is persistently plagued by a poor reputation. This is buttressed, in part, by the frequent appearance in popular culture of the imagined religion of "voodoo.".

  2. More Than a Misunderstood Religion: Rediscovering Vodou as a Tool of

    This paper explores not only the ways in which Haitian Vodou has been intentionally demonized throughout history in order to maintain western supremacy, but also scrutinizes Vodou as a product of transnationalism. ... Voodoo that have been advertised through media overtime, were infact created exclusively as a means of profit by colonizers and ...

  3. (PDF) New Orleans Voodoo: A Discursive and Semiotic ...

    This paper suggests that Voodoo priestesses practice such resistance actively through historical re-tellings of New Orleans history. The analysis describes the significance of dance and drumming ...

  4. PDF Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses

    The topic of popular representations of Vodou and voodoo has received very little scholarly attention (Murphy, 1990; Bartkowski, 1998; Hurbon, 1995). Perhaps most notable is Joseph Murphy's essay ''Black religion and 'black magic''' (1990), which offers exceptional insights into the reasons behind the enduring appeal of voodoo in pop-

  5. Vodou

    Vodou, a traditional Afro-Haitian religion.Vodou represents a syncretism of the West African Vodun religion and Roman Catholicism by the descendants of the Dahomean, Kongo, Yoruba, and other ethnic groups who had been enslaved and transported to colonial Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known then) and partly Christianized by Roman Catholic missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries.

  6. Vodou and History

    Vodou and History. LAURENT DUBOIS. Michigan State University. Haitian Vodou has long been viewed through a distorted lens by outsiders. In the nineteenth century, as the Republic of Haiti suffered from a unique degree of economic and political isolation implemented and enforced by the powerful slaveholding empires and nations that surrounded it ...

  7. (PDF) Representations of Voodoo is a platform for academics to share research papers. Representations of Voodoo : the history and influence of Haitian Vodou within the cultural productions of Britain and America since 1850 ... Vodou has been a topic of discussion roughly within the past thirty years and many within and without the historical discipline have ...

  8. voodoo News, Research and Analysis

    Guilberly Louissaint, University of California, Irvine. Voodoo is often seen as a practice involving magic. In Haiti, Voodoo is a religion born out of the struggle of slaves. And today, it is used ...

  9. Haitian Vodou

    Haitian Vodou first took shape in the context of slavery. Once the religion of the royal family in Dahomey, in West Africa, it was then transformed by the slaves of the island of Haiti as a way of restoring a sense of identity and as a force of liberation. This explains the highly significant role played by Vodou in the largest ever successful slave revolt in history and in the creation of an ...

  10. New Orleans Voodoo: A Discursive and Semiotic ...

    This paper suggests that Voodoo priestesses practice such resistance actively through historical re- tellings of New Orleans history. The analysis describes the significance of dance and drumming in Voodoo rituals for resistance as well as lived sensations experienced by practitioners.

  11. Voodoo

    Among the African rituals and customs described by Moreau de Saint-Méry, none terrified white planters in Haiti more than the practice of voodoo. His description of the rituals associated with voodoo and the hold it had on the minds of the enslaved people demonstrates both his fascination with the topic and the importance he attached to it ...

  12. Racism and the Fear of "Voodoo"

    There's nothing like a horror story to concentrate and focus our deepest fears. As African American studies scholar Michelle Y. Gordon writes, that's just what white newspapers in Louisiana did during Reconstruction, turning white supremacists' worries about Black freedom into unsettling tales of "Voodoo.".

  13. Inside the Voodoo Rituals of Haiti

    "Participation in voodoo ritual reaffirms one's relationships with ancestors, personal history, community relationships—and the cosmos. Voodoo is a way of life," she said. Related Topics

  14. 140 Good Research Topics for History Papers

    10 Good History Research Topics that are Easy to Adapt. Conditions for Slaves During the Building of the Great Pyramid. Three Events from the First Greek Olympiad. How, Where, and When Rome was Founded. The Battle of Marathon: How the Greeks Defeated Persia.

  15. Voodoo Death: A Scientific Perspective

    Voodoo death, as defined by Walter B. Cannon, is an unexplained sudden death that occurs after a voodoo curse (Cannon 1942). Accounts of voodoo death are taken from anecdotes, case studies, and anthropological records. In his paper, "Voodoo Death," Cannon illustrates case reports and highlights interviews with anthropologists and others ...

  16. Voodoo: Is It a Fact or Fiction?

    Voodoo as a religion has its roots in traditional African religions. It original name is Vodu, but that paved way for the more widespread name; Voodoo. Other names referring to it include "Voudou, Vaudau, Voudoux, or Vaudaux" (Tallant 9). Captured slaves from West Africa carried its essential ideology into Haiti, then to America.

  17. Haitian Vodou

    Haitian Vodou essay In the current essay I would like to describe the history, traditions, rituals, as well as provide some interesting information about the Haitian Vodou cult. To start with, it should be noted that Vodou is a cult of African slaves who were brought to Latin America to work on plantations.

  18. Best History Research Paper Topics

    This expansive list of best history research paper topics offers a comprehensive exploration of the past, crossing different eras, regions, and themes. They form a rich tapestry of human experience and a foundation for understanding our present and future. Choose a topic that piques your interest, ignites your curiosity, and promises a journey ...

  19. Where to start with research on Vodou/Voodoo? : r/AskHistorians

    I've recently been working on a board game design that involves many elements from Vodou and Voodoo culture. Before I go any further I was looking for a book or maybe book series which provides a good overview of terminology and history of Vodou's spread from Africa, to Haiti, and then to the U.S. as Voodoo.

  20. Louisiana Voodoo Research Paper

    Decent Essays. 628 Words. 3 Pages. Open Document. Louisiana Voodoo The Voodoo tradition that is alive and well in Louisiana today is brought to the United States care of the slave trade from the early 16th century. West African slaves in the south kept their traditions alive in the US, despite an overwhelming and coercive Roman Catholic influence.

  21. Voodoo Research Paper

    Voodoo is an old religion that finds its roots in west Africa. Remnants of its physical history can be found throughout the West African Coast where major slave trading markets were located. An Example of this are locations contain trees of forgetting in which slaves were "Zombified" by administering herbs to make them more compliant.

  22. 300+ American History Research Paper Topics

    American History Research Paper Topics. American History Research Paper Topics are as follows: The Salem witch trials: religious hysteria and persecution. The California Gold Rush: immigration and economic boom. The Harlem Renaissance: cultural movements and African American creativity. The Stonewall riots: LGBTQ+ rights and activism.

  23. Voodoo Research Paper Topics

    Voodoo Research Paper Topics. Powerful Essays. 2298 Words; 10 Pages; Open Document Analyze This Draft. Open Document Analyze This Draft. Voodoo Research Paper Topics. View Writing Issues. File. Edit. Tools. Settings. Filter Results. 2298 Words. Grammar. Plagiarism Writing