Women of Color and the Construction of Community in Pre-revolutionary Haiti

Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:30 AM
Spire Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Robert Taber, Fayetteville State University
The study of women of color in Saint-Domingue has long focused on questions of sex work, concubinage, and how white male authors portrayed them, most notably Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry. Arlette Gautier shifted our view by exploring colonial life from the viewpoint of women on plantations, highlighting the capricious nature of objectification and sexual violence. Recently, more attention has been paid to the economic roles of free women of color in Saint-Domingue's ports, most notably Dominique Rogers' and Stewart King's analysis of women in Cap Francais and Port-au-Prince. This study draws on over 2,000 notarial and 1,500 parish records from Saint-Marc and Léogane to explore the social relationships of women of color in these secondary port towns, with a particular focus on their relationships with other women and with family members in the rural hinterlands. For example, the handkerchiefs (mouchoirs) women of color wore in their hair attracted the attention of Moreau de Saint-Méry and scholars in the present day, suggesting that these were gifts from white men. Archival analysis demonstrates, however, that women of color often passed the handkerchiefs between themselves, often along with other gifts of clothing and jewelry. Tracing these archival connections illuminates the bonds of community that formed between women of color in the late eighteenth century, including across the boundary between free and enslaved, providing a needed corrective.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>