Free and French in the Caribbean: Toussaint Louverture, Aimé Césaire, and Narratives of Loyal Opposition

By John Patrick Walsh | Go to book overview

Acknowledgments

I AM GRATEFUL to the many people who made this book possible. After years of graduate research on the history and literature of the French Caribbean, I arrived in Charleston for the fall semester 2007 and discovered its historical ties to SaintDomingue. At the time, several institutions and communities were preparing to mark the bicentennial of the U. S. Abolition of the Slave Trade; the following summer, Toni Morrison came to Sullivan’s Island, the point of debarkation for millions of slaves, to commemorate her “Bench by the Road” project. I had recently read Césaire’s essay on Toussaint and decided to put aside another project to study the ties between the two men. My colleague Simon Lewis suggested that I locate Charleston not as a historical, southern city of the United States but as a northern port of a vast Atlantic and Caribbean economy. The director of the College of Charleston’s program for the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World, where I had the privilege to present part of an early draft, Simon has been a key interlocutor throughout its writing.

I am indebted to the generations of scholars of the history and literature of Haiti and the French Caribbean. Over the course of my research, I had the great fortune to exchange ideas with a number of individuals who have inherited this legacy. Special mention must go to Bernadette Cailler, who encouraged me to continue work on Césaire. Nick Nesbitt and Deborah Jenson generously answered many queries. Daniel Desormeaux and Gary Wilder read the original book proposal with great care and made invaluable suggestions for the core argument and structure. Daniel also provided assistance in locating various copies of Toussaint’s memoir. I thank Jeremy Popkin and Françoise Vergès, who each read parts of the manuscript and gave direction at critical moments. Thank you to Aliko Songolo for including me in a panel on Césaire and to Cilas Kemedjio for his response to our panel. The final manuscript benefited greatly from the comments and questions of a team of readers. Thank you to Alex Crumbley, Lia Brozgal, Mylène Priam, Emily Beck, Téfo Attafi, Lisa Signori, and Morgan Koerner. These friends and colleagues made this a better book; any flaws are my own.

Several institutions and the people who animate them were essential to my research. I would like to thank the archivists at the Archives Nationales, in Paris, and the Archives Nationales d’Outre-Mer, in Aix-en-Provence; André Elizee and the staff at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library; Susan Hamson and Tara Craig at the Butler Library of Columbia University; and the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Outside of these archives, I could not have carried out research without the assistance of Michael Phillips and his team, especially Chris Nelson and Carolyn Savage, in the office of Interlibrary Loan at the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library.

-ix-

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