The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States: Histories, Textualities, Geographies

The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States: Histories, Textualities, Geographies

The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States: Histories, Textualities, Geographies

The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States: Histories, Textualities, Geographies


When Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaimed Haitian independence on January 1, 1804, Haiti became the second independent republic, after the United States, in the Americas; the Haitian Revolution was the first successful antislavery and anticolonial revolution in the western hemisphere. The histories of Haiti and the early United States were intimately linked in terms of politics, economics, and geography, but unlike Haiti, the United States would remain a slaveholding republic until 1865. While the Haitian Revolution was a beacon for African Americans and abolitionists in the United States, it was a terrifying specter for proslavery forces there, and its effects were profound. In the wake of Haiti's liberation, the United States saw reconfigurations of its geography, literature, politics, and racial and economic structures.

The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States explores the relationship between the dramatic events of the Haitian Revolution and the development of the early United States. The first section, "Histories," addresses understandings of the Haitian Revolution in the developing public sphere of the early United States, from theories of state sovereignty to events in the street; from the economic interests of U.S. merchants to disputes in the chambers of diplomats; and from the flow of rumor and second-hand news of refugees to the informal communication networks of the enslaved. The second section, "Geographies," explores the seismic shifts in the ways the physical territories of the two nations and the connections between them were imagined, described, inhabited, and policed as a result of the revolution. The final section, "Textualities," explores the wide-ranging consequences that reading and writing about slavery, rebellion, emancipation, and Haiti in particular had on literary culture in both the United States and Haiti.

With essays from leading and emerging scholars of Haitian and U.S. history, literature, and cultural studies, The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States traces the rich terrain of Haitian-U.S. culture and history in the long nineteenth century.

Contributors: Anthony Bogues, Marlene Daut, Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Michael Drexler, Laurent Dubois, James Alexander Dun, Duncan Faherty, Carolyn Fick, David Geggus, Kieran Murphy, Colleen O'Brien, Peter P. Reed, Si¢n Silyn Roberts, Cristobal Silva, Ed White, Ivy Wilson, Gretchen Woertendyke, Edlie Wong.


It should no longer be possible to write a history of the early republic of the United States without mentioning Haiti, or St. Domingue, the French colonial name of the colony known as the “pearl of the Antilles” and the site of a world historical anticolonial, antislavery revolution that occurred between 1789 and 1804. In repeating this, we join a distinguished cohort of writers who have made similar claims in the past, though historically, such claims have tended to rise to the fore only to recede beneath subsequent waves of amnesia. Today, Haiti is known, in the words of Haitian poet and historian Jean-Claude Martineau, as the only country in the world with a last name—“Haiti, poorest country in the western hemisphere.” Haitian exceptionalism, as Michel-Rolph Trouillot recounts, has effectively singled out Haiti as a place apart from the rest of the world and defined Haiti in strikingly negative terms—as “bizarre, unnatural, odd, queer, freakish, or grotesque … erratic, and therefore unexplainable.” This tendency to place Haiti out of relation to and in isolation from other cultures and histories masks a deep history of connection between Haiti and a host of other countries. Unquestionably, Haiti bears strong historical ties to France, but the country’s relation with the United States has been historically decisive as well. Moreover, the United States has, in turn, been shaped in cultural and political terms by its Caribbean neighbor. It is this early and far-reaching history of mutually entwined relations between Haiti and the United States that we explore in this volume.

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