From South to North: Haitian Emigration to Early America

Friday, January 8, 2016: 2:30 PM
Crystal Ballroom C (Hilton Atlanta)
Ronald Angelo Johnson, Texas State University
The American and Haitian Revolutions established the freedom of movement people of color in the Atlantic world. In the early nineteenth century, free people of color in the United States utilized newly established “African” churches to organize a southward exodus to Haiti. The Haitian Emigration Movement sought greater access to freedom for black people of America—in the Black republic. During the same period, Haitian citizens emigrated north to the United States. Haitian immigrants used African Protestant churches as centers of community to acquire social identities, establish economic partnerships, and navigate the political challenges of being “black” in early America. The paper draws upon church records, transnational letters, newspapers, and business correspondence to examine the migration of Haitians in the western Atlantic world. Why did Haitian citizens leave the country they had helped to establish through revolution? How did the arrival of Haitians nationals influence the identity of free and enslaved black people in the United States? The freedoms of movement and of religious practice, when examined together, augment our understanding of the history of black migration and the meaning of blackness in the Atlantic world.
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