DIGITAL: Gaffield’s Dessalines Reader

Hosted, organized, and compiled by Julia Gaffield:

“Jean-Jacques Dessalines is one of the Haitian Revolution’s most poorly and least understood heroes. Beginning with his ascent to power and continuing into the twenty-first century, Dessalines has been criticized for his use of violence during and after the Revolution as well as for his alleged political incompetence. Much of the criticism is a product of racist beliefs about his “African” character despite the fact that we do not know with certainty whether he was born in Saint-Domingue or in West Africa. His “Africanness” is almost always pitted against the “civility” and “moderation” of the earlier revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture….”

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Goldthree Interviews Gaffield on Haiti and the Atlantic World | @AAIHS

At AAIHS, Reena Goldthree interviews Julia Gaffield on her new book Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World:

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BOOK: Gaffield on Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World

Julia Gaffield, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
via UNC Press:

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ARTICLE: Semley on “To Live and Die, Free and French”

Toussaint Louverture [Image fixe] : chef des noirs insurgés de Saint Domingue (entre 1796 et 1799) / Collection de Vinck. Un siècle d'histoire de France par l'estampe, 1770-1870. Vol. 44
Toussaint Louverture: chef des noirs insurgés de Saint Domingue (entre 1796 et 1799) / Collection de Vinck. Un siècle d’histoire de France par l’estampe, 1770-1870. Vol. 44 / BNF
Lorelle D. Semley, “To Live and Die, Free and French Toussaint Louverture’s 1801 Constitution and the Original Challenge of Black Citizenship.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (2013): 65–90.


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ARTICLE/JOURNAL: Radical History Review Special Issue: Haitian Lives/Global Perspectives

Je renais de mes cendres (via The Public Archive)

The Winter 2013 Radical History Review is a special issue: “Haitian Lives/Global Perspectives.”

From the introduction:

As several of the essays in this issue explain, in the years since Michel-Rolph Trouillot famously showed that the Haitian Revolution was “unthinkable” and its his- tory relegated to silence, the country’s history has gone from “hidden” and “unknow- able” to widely studied in the United States and beyond.2 The 2010 earthquake did stimulate a burst of interest in Haiti and its past among both scholars and the general public abroad. As sudden as this awakening may have seemed, however, to understand Haiti better people looked to a body of research, writing, and reflection by Haiti specialists that had been decades in the making. Yet, a great deal of mis- information, and in fact disinformation, persists alongside Haiti’s new cachet, and the perspectives of Haitians themselves are chronically absent from the discussion.

Table of Contents:

Amy Chazkel, Melina Pappademos, and Karen Sotiropoulos. “Editor’s Introduction: Haitian Lives/Global Perspectives.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 1–9.

Gary Wilder. “Telling Histories: A Conversation with Laurent Dubois and Greg Grandin.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 11–25.

April Mayes, Yolanda C. Martín, Carlos Ulises Decena, Kiran Jayaram, and Yveline Alexis. “Transnational Hispaniola: Toward New Paradigms in Haitian and Dominican Studies.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 26–32.

Simon R. Doubleday. “History After the Earthquake: Shifting the Axis of Teaching.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 33–44.

Paul Cheney. “A Colonial Cul De Sac Plantation Life in Wartime Saint-Domingue, 1775 – 1782.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter, 2013): 45–64.

Lorelle D. Semley. “To Live and Die, Free and French Toussaint Louverture’s 1801 Constitution and the Original Challenge of Black Citizenship.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 65–90.

Peter James Hudson. “The National City Bank of New York and Haiti, 1909 – 1922.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 91–114.

Jana K. Lipman. “‘The Fish Trusts the Water, and It Is in the Water That It Is Cooked’ The Caribbean Origins of the Krome Detention Center.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 115–141.

A. Naomi Paik. “Carceral Quarantine at Guantánamo Legacies of US Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991 – 1994.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 142–168.

Leah Gordon. “Kanaval Vodou, Politics, and Revolution in the Streets of Haiti.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 169–183.

Jerry Philogene. “Meditations on Traveling Diasporically: Jean-Ulrick Désert and Negerhosen2000.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 184–193.

David Geggus. “Haiti and Its Revolution: Four Recent Books.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 195–202.

Matthew J. Smith. “Haiti from the Outside In: A Review of Recent Literature.” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 203–211.

Toussaint Losier. “Jean Anil Louis-Juste, Prezan!” Radical History Review 2013, no. 115 (Winter 2013): 213–217.

Featured Image Credit: “Je renais de mes cendres” posted at the Public Archive: “…The reverse bears the inscription Les armoiries du Roi Henry Christophe, 1767-1820, Bâtisseur de La Citadelle (The arms of King Henry Christophe, 1767-1820, Builder of the Citadel). In the middle is the king’s coat of arms, a crowned phoenix rising from the flames, with stars in the firmament and the words, Je renais de mes cendres. (I am reborn from my ashes.)…”

Radical Black Reading/Reading Haiti, 2012 | The Public Archive

Easily the most hyped Haiti-related book to come out in the past year was Purpose: An Immigrant Story (It Books), the memoir of rapper-turned-presidential-candidate Wyclef Jean. They say Purpose is actually not that bad, especially if you’re interested in either Clef’s take on the dissolution of the Fugees or his embittered account of his agonized history with Lauryn Hill. But it offers little on his controversial charity efforts or on his political aspirations, though perhaps these issues will be addressed in one of the proposed seven tomes Wyclef plans on writing.  Regardless, the books that interested us in 2012 were not over-marketed and vapid celebrity tell-alls but politically and intellectually engaged tracts – often published by smaller, lesser-known presses, and often overlooked by the mainstream….

Read the Rest: Radical Black Reading/Reading Haiti, 2012 | The Public Archive

FORUM: Dubois, Girard, Gaffield, and Jenson on Jean-Jacques Dessalines

“Jean Jacques Dessalines, fondateur de l’Indépendance d’Haïti,” in Dantès Fortunat, Nouvelle géographie de l’île d’Haïti, contenant des notions historiques et topographiques sur les autres Antilles, H. Noirot, 1888. Source: New York Public Library (Click Image)

The July 2012 issue of the William and Mary Quarterly is hosting a special forum on “Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the Haitian Revolution.”  The forum includes:

Laurent Dubois, “Dessalines Toro d’Haiti.”

Philippe R. Girard, “Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the Atlantic System:  A Reappraisal:”

Revered in Haiti as a founding father committed to his countrymen’s freedom and independence, decried by his white contemporaries as a bloodthirsty brute, Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines was actually a multifaceted historical figure who borrowed much of his worldview and many of his policies from the colonial plantation system of the Atlantic world. In particular, archival findings in France, Britain, and the United States reveal that Dessalines encouraged France to arrest fellow black revolutionaries, was long ambivalent about advocating independence from France, and maintained close relations with some white Frenchmen even after the 1804 massacres. He conducted extensive diplomatic negotiations with his neighbors in an effort to maintain the trade links inherited from the colonial era, strove to preserve the integrity of the sugar plantations even though he had himself been a slave (probably of Toussaint Louverture’s son-in-law), enforced a strict feudal system among former slaves and tried to import African laborers, and was inspired by a multicultural environment that incorporated American and European as well as African elements. Dessalines was thus a complex character whose conduct was motivated by his economic, political, and diplomatic interests in addition to the racial and ideological factors that tend to dominate the historiography.

Julia Gaffield, “Haiti and Jamaica in the Remaking of the Early Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World:

The Haitian Declaration of Independence on January 1, 1804, explicitly challenged long-standing systems of European colonialism and slavery in the Caribbean. In the complex diplomatic and economic negotiations between Haiti’s first leader, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and the lieutenant governor of Jamaica, George Nugent, the two sought to answer unprecedented questions in the months before and after Dessalines’s rebel forces defeated the French army. Nugent considered how British officials would regulate trade between British merchants and Haitians but was concerned that Haitian merchants and sailors would spread the spirit of rebellion throughout the New World. Could slavery and universal freedom coexist in the Caribbean without dramatic consequences for the British Empire? The full documentary evidence of how both sides aggressively pursued their objectives during 1803 and 1804 casts a new light on why Atlantic world empires and nations settled on policies of diplomatic isolation for Haiti by the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century. The Haitian Declaration of Independence raised profound questions about revolutionary legitimacy and national sovereignty and drastically expanded the ideals of the age of revolutions.

In “Sources and Interpretations,” Deborah Jenson, “Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the African Character of the Haitian Revolution:”

According to the standard interpretation of mid- to late twentieth-century historiography, Jean-Jacques Dessalines was literally Creole—born in the colony—yet performatively and ideologically African. The vexed narrative of the origins of the first leader of independent Haiti shapes our understanding of the Haitian Revolution as what Laurent Dubois calls “an African revolution,” whose African-born majority is only obliquely reflected in the historiography of revolutionary leadership. Analysis of sources and interpretations reveals that the few individuals from Dessalines’s lifetime who spoke of his background at all described him as African-born. Some accounts traced his origins to the “Gold Coast” (in its eighteenth-century French acceptation), and others alluded to his tribal scarification. Political tensions over Haitian elites and their relationships to the nonelite majority heralded the gradual transition from the African to the Creole narrative of Dessalines’s origins in the middle of the nineteenth century. The possibility that Dessalines was not Creole but African represents a critical link for renewed theorization of how the Middle Passage informed African revolutionary agency in colonial Saint Domingue. The oral traditions of Vodou provide a valuable source of alternative historiography for study of the African character of the Haitian Revolution.

Read the entire issue online through JSTOR Current ($$).

(H/T Duke Haiti Lab on Twitter)