Defiant Haiti: Free-Soil Runaways, Ship Seizures and the Politics of Diplomatic Non-Recognition in the Early Nineteenth Century

Johnhenry Gonzalez has written an article with engaging stories and on a topic that deserves even more attention.

I finally got to read Johnhenry Gonzalez’s article published in the latest issue of Abolition & Slavery 36:1 (2015): 124-135.  It deals with an understudied topic, but one that is important to me.  If this is an indication of a trend, I am glad for the budding interest in post-revolutionary Haiti (1820s) and the Atlantic World.

Runaways escaping by boat

Runaways escaping by boat

It is only at the end of the article that the reader notices that Gonzalez had nicely weaved in pirates’ and runaway accounts into a foreign policy study. Gonzalez knows that Prince Mary’s remarkable autobiography fits perfectly when talking about runaways from the Caicos’ islands. So, there she is, explaining readers that a lack of a sugar plantation system does not mean a more benevolent slavery, which only existed in the imagination of a few slavery apologists.  Attention to stories like hers bubbles up more than curiosity. It helps contrast the appalling lives of slaves on the Turks and Caicos islands with the freedom that boat-runaways most had gained in Haiti.

Gonzalez insists that Jean-Pierre Boyer’s prolonged regime (1818-1843) should be considered as part of an epoch of sputtering transition toward emancipation.  How did his rule managed to survive for so long in the midst of the sugar archipelago, encircled by the very same islands that were models of intensified slave labor?  And what about the legendary internal divisions? To explain his case, Gonzalez builds upon Ada Ferrer’s work on early Haitian Free-soil policy but does not stay there.  He soon moves toward a more time-honored position and brings with him an underlying assumption.  For Gonzalez, Haitian leaders (principally Boyer) quietly manipulated the “organic” 1816 Constitution for diplomatic ends (more like a bait):

While Pétion and Boyer’s policies of emancipation, free soil, and land reform grew organically from the aspirations of Haiti’s formerly enslaved citizens, these leaders also tacitly used these policies to threaten and punish the hostile British and North American governments. (132)

Here he reminds me of John Edward Baur’s article “Mulatto Machiavelli, Jean-Pierre Boyer, and The Haiti of His Day.” Baur focused on Boyer and presented him as the ideal Haitian practitioner of realpolitik, with an innate talent to negotiate Haiti’s survival.  Thankfully, Gonzalez’s portrayal of Boyer is more nuanced.  He showed Boyer as part of his time and in a mix with the masses of people who are not short in historical agency. But generally speaking, Baur would have agreed with Gonzalez’s main arguments.  It is at the moments when Gonzalez differed strikingly from Baur that the reader notices the author’s major contributions to historiography.

For example, Gonzalez highlighted a point that should have been obvious but is often ignored, one that Baur also assumed: Boyer’s Free Soil policy resulted in a better survival strategy than that of Jean Jaques Dessalines or Henri Christophe’s.  However, differently from Baur, Gonzalez’s understands that Haiti behaved defiantly against the US and British authorities (through consuls and traders) simply because it could do so at this time in history.  No imperial power was dominant enough in the Caribbean to submit Haiti into raw obedience– a situation clearly different after 1915 with the US invasion.  In other words, Gonzalez places Haiti solidly within a more nuanced milieu.  Still, Baur would have supported Gonzalez when explaining Pétion and Boyer’s motivations for their foreign policy of defiance: it was a retaliation against the British and US non-recognition policy.

Haitian officials sign a treaty with France. Date 1825.

Haitian officials sign a treaty with France. Date 1825.

One of the most interesting points in Gonzalez’s article is where he offers a distinct angle for considering the 1825 Indemnity Treaty. Far from justifying getting the country in (eternal) debt, he shows Boyer in a contrasting light. On the one hand, his Free-Soil policy makes him look like a successful postcolonial leader. On the other, however, Boyer looks like a fool when he gave in to French demands. On this point, Gonzalez departs from Baur, who had seen Boyer in 1825 as a prisoner of circumstances.  Boyer had alternatives.

Though many scholars and non-scholars have returned to this moment (see Joan Dayan, page 161 and Frédérique Beauvois). and have wondered about Boyer’s thoughts, most have deemed it as a mistake. Gonzalez makes Boyer’s submission seems even more absurd.

In this light, the French indemnity of 1825 appears especially tragic not simply because it siphoned away Haitian wealth and helped it along the path towards economic ruin, but also because Boyer’s government may have had sufficient military power, domestic political support, and neutral or clandestine trading partners to have continued defying France and Britain well beyond 1825.

Regardless of how inconsistent Boyer’s regime appeared, the most obvious beneficiaries of the Haitian revolutionary legacy were the few runaways from nearby islands, particularly those from the Turks and Caicos.

As with every good piece of scholarship, this article leaves many unanswered questions, which are the seeding grounds for future research.  How much can we speculate about Boyer’s authority and actual power? What role did the people play in shaping the law and foreign policy? How did enslaved families learned about the news in Haiti? Fortunately, recent research is helping find and better understand the runaways’ flights.

Theses and Dissertations– Bibliography of the 1824 migration to Haiti

Screen-shot-2010-09-18-at-11.47.30-AM

 

 

 

I thought about putting a list of theses and dissertations related to my book, In Search of an American Dream. Corrections and additions are more than welcome. I will come back to it and perhaps add a few links, etc.

phd052107s

 

 

 

Theses and Dissertations

 

Allen, William Ezra. “Sugar and Coffee: A History of Settler Agriculture in Nineteenth-Century Liberia.” Ph.D., Florida International University, 2002.

 

Ball, Erica Louise. “From Elevation to Uplift: Gender, Citizenship and Northern Black Political Culture on the Eve of the Civil War.” Ph.D., City University of New York, 2002.

 

Bonner, Donna Maria. “Garifuna Town/Caribbean Nation/Latin American State: Identity and Prejudice in Belize.” Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 1999.

 

Brown, Jarrett Hugh. “Black Masculinities as Marronage: Claude Mckay’s Representation of Black Male Subjectivities in Metropolitan Spaces.” Ph.D., The College of William and Mary, 2011.

 

Bulthuis, Kyle Timothy. “Four Steeples over the City Streets: Trinity Episcopal, St. Philip’s Episcopal, John Street Methodist, and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Churches in New York City, 1760–1840.” Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2007.

 

Burnham, Thorald M. “Immigration and Marriage in the Making of Post-Independence Haiti.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2006.

 

Cameron, Christopher Alain. “To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement, 1630–1835.” Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010.

 

Carter, Ralph Donald. “Black American or African: The Response of New York City Blacks to African Colonization, 1817-1841.”  Dissertation, 1974.

 

Crozier, Karen Denise. “Pedagogies of Empowerment: Towards Institutional Change in a Local Black Church.” Ph.D., Claremont School of Theology, 2006.

 

Cryderman, Kevin. “Ghostly Spectators of History: Collective Identity, Regulative Frameworks and the Idiosyncratic Subject.” Ph.D., University of Rochester, 2009.

 

Curtis, Lesley Shannon. “Utopian (Post)Colonies: Rewriting Race and Gender after the Haitian Revolution.” Ph.D., Duke University, 2011.

 

Dain, Bruce Russell. “A Hideous Monster of the Mind: American Race Theory, 1787-1859.” Ph.D., Princeton University, 1996.

 

Daut, Marlene Leydy. “Science of Desire: Race and Representations of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1790-1865.” Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 2009.

 

Davies, John. “Class, Culture, and Color: Black Saint-Dominguan Refugees and African-American Communities in the Early Republic.” Ph.D., University of Delaware, 2008.

 

de Briffault, E. Christian. “The Haitian Revolution, 1791–1803. Race, Slavery, and the Balance of Power: A Comparative Analysis.” D.A., St. John’s University (New York), 2004.

 

De Vidas, Albert. “The Foreign Relations of Haiti in Hemispheric Affairs from Independence to Occupation, 1804-1915.” Book; Archival Material, NYU, 1971.

 

DeFay, Jason Bradley. “Identity Matters: Immigration and the Social Construction of Identity in Garifuna Los Angeles.” Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2004.

 

Den Hartog, Jonathan J. “”Patriotism and Piety”: Orthodox Religion and Federalist Political Culture.” Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, 2006.

 

Diemer, Andrew Keith. “Black Nativism: African American Politics, Nationalism and Citizenship in Baltimore and Philadelphia, 1817 to 1863.” Ph.D., Temple University, 2011.

 

Dowdy, Calenthia S. “Youth, Music, and Agency: Undoing Race, Poverty and Violence in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.” 3498194, American University, 2012.

 

Dyck, David Wayne. “The Missionary Church in the Dominican Republic.” Dissertation, 1975.

 

Edmondson, Philip N. “The St. Domingue Legacy in Black Activist and Antislavery Writings in the United States, 1791–1862.” Dissertation, 2004.

 

Egea Fernandez-Montesinos, Alberto. “La Construccion Del Imaginario Literario Andaluz: Entre La Imagi-Nacion Folclorica Y Las Margi-Naciones Del Sur.” Ph.D., Emory University, 2000.

 

Fanning, Sara Connors. “Haiti and the U.S.: African American Emigration and the Recognition Debate.” Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin, 2008.

 

Fellows, Kristen R. “African Americans from “Back Yonder”: The Historical Archaeology of the Formation, Maintenance, and Dissolution of the American Enclave in Samana, Dominican Republic.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2013.

 

Flemming, Tracy K. “Negro: Travel and the Pan-African Imagination During the Nineteenth Century.” Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2010.

 

Fleszar, Mark J. “The Atlantic Legacies of Zephaniah Kingsley: Benevolence, Bondage, and Proslavery Fictions in the Age of Emancipation.” Ph.D., Georgia State University, 2013.

 

Franks, Julie Cheryl. “Transforming Property: Landholding and Political Rights in the Dominican Sugar Region, 1880-1930.” Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1997.

 

Fuste, Jose I. “Possible Republics: Tracing the ‘Entanglements’ of Race and Nation in Afro-Latina/O Caribbean Thought and Activism, 1870–1930.” Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2012.

 

Gaffield, Julia. “”So Many Schemes in Agitation”: The Haitian State and the Atlantic World.” Ph.D., Duke University, 2012.

 

Garcia, Armand. “Jose Marti and the Global Dimensions of Late Nineteenth-Century Cuban Nation Building.” Ph.D., Washington State University, 2006.

 

Glenn, James Hogan. “Andrew Johnson and the Dominican Republic.” Creighton University, 1967.

 

Gonzalez, Johnhenry. “The War on Sugar: Forced Labor, Commodity Production and the Origins of the Haitian Peasantry, 1791–1843.” Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2012.

 

Greene, Ousmane Kirumu. “Against Wind and Tide: African Americans’ Response to the Colonization Movement and Emigration, 1770–1865.” Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2007.

 

Grivno, Max L. “”There Slavery Cannot Dwell”: Agriculture and Labor in Northern Maryland, 1790–1860.” Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park, 2007.

 

Hanks, Iyelli Ichile. “Black Magic Woman: Towards a Theory of Africana Women’s Resistance.” Ph.D., Howard University, 2011.

 

Head, David. “Sailing for Spanish America: The Atlantic Geopolitics of Foreign Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic.” Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2010.

 

Hetrick, Matthew J. “African American Colonization and Identity, 1780-1925.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2013.

 

Hidalgo, Dennis Ricardo. “From North America to Hispaniola: First Free Black Emigration and Settlements in Hispaniola.” Ph.D., Central Michigan University, 2003.

 

Hudson, Linda Sybert. “Jane Mcmanus Storm Cazneau (1807-1878): A Biography.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 1999.

 

Jackson, James O’Dell, III. “The Origins of Pan-African Nationalism: Afro-American and Haytian Relations.” Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1976.

 

Jones, Christina Violeta. “Revolution and Reaction: Santo Domingo During the Haitian Revolution and Beyond, 1791–1844.” Ph.D., Howard University, 2008.

 

Kaisary, Philip James. “The Literary Impact of the Haitian Revolution.” University of Warwick, 2008.

 

Kaussen, Valerie Mae. “Romancing the Peasant: History and Revolution in the Modern Haitian Novel.” Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2000.

 

Kwon, Yun Kyoung. “Ending Slavery, Narrating Emancipation: Revolutionary Legacies in the French Antislavery Debate and “Silencing the Haitian Revolution,” 1814–48.” Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2012.

 

Leung, Ka Yee. “Embodied Cultural Cognition: How Culture Is Carried by Our Bodily Experiences?” Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.

 

Lovit, Alex. ““The Bounds of Habitation”: The Geography of the American Colonization Society.” University of Michigan, 2011.

 

Malka, Adam C. “The Haitian Evolution: Emigration and Diasporan Consciousness in Nineteenth Century America.” University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2005.

 

Márquez Macías, Rosario. “La Emigración Española a América, 1765-1824.” Universidad de Oviedo, Servicio de Publicaciones, 1995.

 

Matijasic, Thomas David. “Conservative Reform in the West: The African Colonization Movement in Ohio 1826-1839 ” Dissertation, 1982.

 

Matthews, Gelien. “Slave Rebellions in the Discourse of British Anti-Slavery.” University of Hull, 2002.

 

McCarthy, Timothy Patrick. “A Culture of Dissent: American Abolitionism and the Ordeal of Equality.” Ph.D., Columbia University, 2006.

 

McDaniel, William Caleb. “Our Country Is the World: Radical American Abolitionists Abroad.” Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 2006.

 

Menely, Tobias. “Cultivated Sympathies: Human Sentiments and Animal Subjects in the Long Eighteenth Century.” Ph.D., Indiana University, 2006.

 

Mills, Brandon. “Exporting the Racial Republic: African Colonization, National Citizenship, and the Transformation of U.S. Expansion, 1776–1864.” Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011.

 

Mongey, Vanessa. “Cosmopolitan Republics and Itinerant Patriots: The Gulf of Mexico in the Age of Revolutions (1780s–1830s).” Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2010.

 

Morales, Edgardo A Pérez. “Itineraries of Freedom Revolutionary Travels and Slave Emancipation in Colombia and the Greater Caribbean. 1789-‐1830.” University of Michigan, 2013.

 

Morales, JosÈ. “The Hispaniola Diaspora, 1791-1850 Puerto Rico, Cuba, Louisiana, and Other Host Societies.” 1987.

 

Moulton, Amber D. “Marriage Extraordinary: Interracial Marriage and the Politics of Family in Antebellum Massachusetts.” Ph.D., Harvard University, 2011.

 

Myers, Amrita Chakrabarti. “Negotiating Women: Black Women and the Politics of Freedom in Charleston, South Carolina, 1790-1860.” Rutgers University, 2005.

 

Nessler, Graham Townsend. “A Failed Emancipation? The Struggle for Freedom in Hispaniola During the Haitian Revolution, 1789–1809.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2011.

 

Nwankwo, Ifeoma Chinwe Kiddoe. “Cosmopolitan Consciousness: Inter-American Engagements in the Scripting of African-American and Caribbean Identities.” Duke University, 1999.

 

Oliver, Albert G. “The Protest and Attitudes of Blacks Towards the American Colonization Society and the Concepts of Emigration and Colonization in Africa 1817 – 1865.” Dissertation, 1978.

 

Ozuna, Ana. “Reclaiming Blackness through the Literary Figure of the Maroon in Dominican Literature.” Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2009.

 

Page, Sebastian Nicholas. “The American Civil War and Black Colonization.” D.Phil., University of Oxford (United Kingdom), 2012.

 

Pamphile Miller, Chrislaine. “”‘Blessed Are the Peacemakers”: African American Emigration to Haiti, 1816-1826.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2013.

 

Peña, Julissa. ““Yo Soy Negro, Pero Negro Blanco:” Hispanicity, Antihaitianismo and Genocide in the Dominican Republic.” Wesleyan University, 2012.

 

Phillips, William M. “Nightmares of Anarchy and Dreams of Revolution in English and American Literature, 1870-1910.” Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1996.

 

Pierce, Jennifer J. “Discourses of the Dispossessed : Saint-Domingue Colonists on Race, Revolution and Empire, 1789-1825.” 2005.

 

Piggush, Yvette Renee. “Governing Imagination: American Social Romanticism, 1790–1840.” Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2007.

 

Polgar, Paul J. “Standard Bearers of Liberty and Equality: Reinterpreting the Origins of American Abolitionism.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2013.

 

Ramlagan, Michelle N. “(Re)Placing Nation: Postcolonial Women’s Contestations of Spatial Discourse.” Ph.D., University of Miami, 2011.

 

Riley, Padraig Griffin. “Northern Republicans and Southern Slavery: Democracy in the Age of Jefferson, 1800–1819.” Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2007.

 

Rivas, Christine D. “Power, Race, Class and Gender in Colonial Santo Domingo: An Analysis of Spanish Dominican Marital Patterns in the Archbishopric of Santo Domingo, 1701–1801.” Ph.D., Carleton University (Canada), 2008.

 

Roberts, Neil Douglas. “Freedom as Marronage: The Dialectic of Slavery and Freedom in Arendt, Pettit, Rousseau, Douglass, and the Haitian Revolution.” University of Chicago, Department of Political Science, 2007.

 

Rodriguez, Nestor E. “Configuraciones Y Desfiguraciones De Lo Nacional En La Literatura Dominicana Contemporanea.” Ph.D., Emory University, 2003.

 

Sacks, Dan. “The Historical Traditions of Nat Turner.” 2008.

 

Sagas, Ernesto. “Antihaitianismo in the Dominican Republic.” 1993.

 

Salt, Karen N. “The Haitian Question.” Purdue University, 2011.

 

Scallet, Daniel. “”This Inglorious War”: The Second Seminole War, the Ad Hoc Origins of American Imperialism, and the Silence of Slavery.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2011.

 

Schoeppner, Michael Alan. “Navigating the Dangerous Atlantic: Racial Quarantines, Black Sailors and United States Constitutionalism.” UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, 2010.

 

Scruggs, Dalila. “”The Love of Liberty Has Brought Us Here”: The American Colonization Society and the Imaging of African-American Settlers in Liberia.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2010.

 

Sesay, Chernoh Momodu, Jr. “Freemasons of Color: Prince Hall, Revolutionary Black Boston, and the Origins of Black Freemasonry, 1770–1807.” Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2006.

 

Shabaka, Segun. “An Afrocentric Analysis of the 19th Century African-American Migration to Haiti: A Quest for the Self-Determining Community.” Ph.D., Temple University, 2001.

 

Smith, Eleanor Valerie. “Mate Selection as an Indicator of Ethnic Identity and Maintenance: A Case Analysis of the “Immigrants” in Samana, Dominican Republic (Blacks, Afro-American).” Ph.D., University of Florida, 1986.

 

Smith, Reiland Rabaka. “Africana Critical Theory: From W. E. B. Du Bois and C. L. R. James’s Discourse on Domination and Liberation to Frantz Fanon and Amilcar Cabral’s Dialectics of Decolonization.” Ph.D., Temple University, 2001.

 

Stringer, Rozanne McGrew. “Hybrid Zones: Representations of Race in Late Nineteenth-Century French Visual Culture.” Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2011.

 

Tagliamonte, Sali Anna. “A Matter of Time: Past Temporal Reference Verbal Structures in Samana English and the Ex-Slave Recordings.” Ph.D., University of Ottawa (Canada), 1991.

 

Tillman, Ellen D. “Imperialism Revised: Military, Society, and Us Occupation in the Dominican Republic, 1880-1924.” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011.

 

Torbett, David James. “Theology and Slavery: Charles Hodge and Horace Bushnell on the Slavery Question.” Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education, 2002.

 

Torres Casillas, Pablo Samuel. “Los Cronistas De La Americanizacion: Representacion Y Discurso Colonial En Puerto Rico (1898–1932).” Ph.D., University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras (Puerto Rico), 2013.

 

Treudley, Mary Bosworth. “The United States and Santo Domingo, 1789-1866.” 1916.

 

Twa, Lindsay Jean. “Troubling Island: The Imagining and Imaging of Haiti by African-American Artists, 1915–1940.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2006.

 

Van Sickle, Eugene S. “A Transnational Vision: John H. B. Latrobe and Maryland’s African Colonization Movement.” ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2005.

 

Walker, James A. . “Present Accounted For: Prosody and Aspect in Early African American English.” University of Ottawa, 2000.

 

Walton-Hanley, Jennifer A. “Reversing the Middle Passage : The American Colonization Society and Race Relations, 1816-1964.” [s.n.], 2009.

 

Walton-Hanley, Jennifer A. “Reversing the Middle Passage: The American Colonization Society and Race Relations, 1816–1964.” Ph.D., University of Kentucky, 2009.

 

Weir, Donna Maxine. “Beyond Binaries: Creolized Forms of Resistance in African-American and Caribbean Literatures.” Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2000.

 

Wirzbicki, Peter. “Black Intellectuals, White Abolitionists, and Revolutionary Transcendentalists: Creating the Radical Intellectual Tradition in Antebellum Boston.” Ph.D., New York University, 2012.

 

Woodcock, Lowell. “Islands of Inequality: The Environmental History of Tobago and the Crisis of Development and Globalisation in the Caribbean 1763–2007.” University of Sussex, 2010.

 

Yarema, Allan E. “The American Colonization Society : An Avenue to Freedom?” University Press of America, 2006.

 

Younger, Karen Virginia Fisher. ““Africa Stretches Forth Her Hands Unto You”: Female Colonization Supporters in the Antebellum United States.” The Pennsylvania State University, 2006.

 

 

 

Re-Watching “Invictus”

invictus_stills_10-929139325

After Mandela’s death I rewatched the film “Invictus,” but this time I also read two film reviews: Bugliani and Baum’s. The three years since its release gave me enough distance to bypass the anticipated jovial triumph of reconciliation. Who would not like to see hundred of years of bitter clashes, cultivated racism, and the establishment of the highest form of White supremacy shattered into pieces simply after a rugby victory–even if it is against the most diverse and integrated rugby team in the world (who had even adopted the dances and moves of the once conquered people: the Maoris)? I remember how I felt the first time I saw it, and how I continued feeling for a long while. We could do this. We can forgive and forget. You cannot blame me for that. Who would not want to feel that way?

But we have been reading Evan Carton’s John Brown’s biography in class, and I have grown much since. In rewatching Invictus’ I knew that Hollywood’s goal, of a fleeting sense of victory, should be seen from a different angle.  To analyze the film anew, I needed to find a way to sail against the film’s ideological current, similarly as Atlantic sailors have played with the lateen and square rigs to forestall and even sail against oceanic wind currents.

The simple truth is that despite its good intentions and historical research, this film has serious problems— as you could see in Baum’s analysis. Yet like sailors sailing against strong ideological currents combining the use of lateen and square rigs, it is our task to propose an alternative view of the past that could do more justice to the subject of racial oppression and reconciliation.

Bugliani focuses more on the art and film’s narrative, while Baum places the film in the context of other two recent movies and within the broader historical context of slavery, race and imperialism. For Bugliani what matters is the wordless pull of the nation; the sport is only a symbol, a vehicle. And though he can seem simplistic, his piece underscores the gravity and unpredictability of the outcome. Moreover, he subtly hits on the problem of Whites’ needs supplied as opposed to that of Blacks. Baum’s more historically informed assessment lays bare the weaknesses of a film that focuses on an ephemeral and superficial reconciliation.

Yes, they all play together and even dance together, laughing and sharing the same seats. But what would happen after that moment is gone, when the differences in wealth, access to power and status continue? What will happen to the habits and prejudices cultivated for centuries in the ethos of these nations? In a way, this film seems to be asking Blacks to once more bend to the faults of the Whites. It is true that he proposed and worked hard for forgiveness, but Mandela went beyond what this film shows. Forgiveness is nothing without redress. John Brown’s approach to reconciliation seems to have contrasted with the one presented in this film. His focused on bringing equality after the law and in power too.

When the rugby team travelled to the poor Black neighborhoods to offer free rugby clinics to poor kids we all got a first look at the poverty that have stricken their lives. That view was not shown much again in the film. Poverty kills, but it is worse when it does not kill and lingers as Povertenza crippling the lives of millions of people who live in societies gushing in Affluenza.  Reconciliation means to bring people out of poverty so we can then really be at the same level. Reading this film in reverse can be an enlightening experience.

 

Lynching and the Susquehannocks

this-is-her-first-lynching

Racial lynching, the tortuous spectacle of killing non-Whites without impunity, seems to have a unique tradition in United States. Certainly, people of color in colonial conditions all over the world have occasionally joined those in the U.S., who, without the protection of the law, have been forced to perform pain and death in public for no other crime than living among Whites. But the intensity and length of this practice in the U.S. have no rivals. Even the few late 19th and 20th centuries African states ruled by White minorities that practiced it, did so for a much shorter time.
2-1-some-lynchings-for-rape


Lynching is not the same as other racial brutalities. Differently, from what Las Casas wrote about the Spanish-Indian violence (even when exaggerating), lynching is not collateral violence that simply derives from an unfair system of labor or from social inequalities and acts of conquest. And in contrast to other forms of racial or ethnic exterminations (i.e., Nazi, Rwandan, Cambodian, Japanese), lynching is done, at most, against a handful of victims at a time and in public for the sadistic satisfaction of onlookers. Though extermination is the ultimate goal, the immediate aim is to plant terror within the non-White communities– often emasculating young males. In most cases, an overwhelmingly large-group descend on one or a few unsuspecting bystanders—a sort of super-bullying. And it shows no distinction of color, as long as the victims are not perceived as White (i.e., Indians, Latinos, Romas and Blacks).

Bartolome de las casas

The main reason a public performance so opposed to publicized U.S.’s religious and civic values became hence socially and culturally ingrained is because its long historical roots. The regular whipping of Blacks in plantations is a formative part of the lynching culture, as some historians have already pointed out. Mimi Sheller wrote, “A differential valuing of white and black bodies, as well as of socially acceptable forms of male and female bodies, is one of the most enduring legacies of slavery.” 1 But the violence of U.S. frontiersmen toward Amerindians is very similar to what later evolved into lynching. Indeed, it was the mob-culture mentality, sometimes mixed up with ideals of patriotic vigilantism, that gave shaped to a more pervasive and acceptable culture of lynching. Though the large majority of U.S. nationalist historians apologize for the frontiersmen by explaining they were simply reacting to Amerindian attacks, the reality is that these settlers and rangers were invading indigenous communal lands. Specific acts of “retaliatory” violence carried out against Amerindians are at the foundation of the U.S. lynching tradition. One such case, the Conestoga massacre, illustrates the argument.

PeaceableKingdom

On the winter of 1763-4, pressed between aftershocks of the French and Indian War, and the opening of the Pontiac insurrection, Presbyterian Scots-Irish, were in no mood for Quaker doctrines of nonviolence. Unfortunately, for the Susquehannocks, their type had become the driving force of the Pennsylvanian frontier expansion, the “peaceable kingdom” of the Quaker Penn family. More alarming was that these freshly arrived Ulster-Scots speakers, accustomed to conflict over land in the British Isles, saw no difference among Native Americans, even when they have settled along the Western frontier and should have been familiar with the diversity of Amerindian cultures. They have crossed the Atlantic as immigrants from the Irish Ulster, a zone of imperial expansion with a long history of religious and ethnic violence, where legends of massacres echoed through folk narratives. Some even descended from Border Reivers who for centuries have kept the Anglo-Scottish border in a state of low-conflict war. These were veterans of border cultures, but like the Spanish Conquistadors, who had come to the New World embodying the ethos of the Spanish Reconquista, the Scots-Irish came to conquer and control in order to better their social and economic status.

Conestoga India Tow

At daybreak on Wednesday, December 14, 1763, an armed mob of these Scots-Irish, who had traveled through a snowy night from northern Lancaster, showed up at the reservation-like village of Conestoga Town, what today is Millersville, PA. Witnesses put their numbers between 50 to 100 restless young and “unmarried” men. They did not come to barter or talk peacefully with the Susquehannock, who had been reduced to this location after their lands and power had disappeared, and were alarmingly dwindling in numbers— a sign of things to come for “peaceful” or pacified indigenous groups. The rangers came only to kill. 

conestoga mannorThe Susquehannocks, who were part of the Iroquois-speaking network of Amerindians of the mid eastern band in North America, would not have expected this misfortune. They had lived in Conestoga for over sixty years, and held copies of the treaties signed with the Penn family— they were a living historical patrimony for the “peaceable” colony. Some even professed Christianity and played key roles in negotiations between the colonial government and other Amerindian groups. They had already begun the process of assimilation by inserting themselves into White society— albeit as a permanent underclass bartering, selling their own crafts and begging at local farms. Following its legal and moral obligations, the Penn colonial government had unwittingly extended over them a sort of welfare system that many non-Quaker White colonists resented, a social order similar to the Spanish-American “República de Indios,” which tried keeping Indians in a subservient state while offering them protection from the ravages of White Creole colonists.


The morning of the Boys’ visit, only about six Susquehannocks were in the village. The rest had stayed among White neighbors the night before while weathering the snow storm— the same one that the armed mob had walked through with a sense of urgency. What ensued was pure calamity. The frontiersmen attacked the six unarmed Susquehannocks mercilessly, not only killing them, but torturing, scalping and cutting them into pieces. Death arrived brutally, quickly and without warning or reasonable justification. The victims’ mutilated bodies, of people who simply happened to look like the combative Indians fighting for their lives on the Western frontier, laid on the floor as evidence of the Boys’ “heroic performance.”

paxton

Though a vocal minority protested vigorously, it seems that the majority’s apathy or subtle support increased the group’s resolve. The other fourteen Susquehannocks found refuge in the Lancaster’s local prison, which also served as a workhouse. Among the refugees were children and pregnant women. While they may have felt secured under the sheriff’s eye, in reality, they had only about two weeks of grace. Their location had been given away and their safety rendered useless. On December 27, the Boys, who had time to put their animus on ice, but did not, came down to Lancaster “equipped for murder.”  They seemed to have represented a silent majority of colonists when they stormed, once more, into the Castenogas’ lives to perform an even more grotesque act of terror and extermination. Again, mutilated body parts laid across the prison’s yard, representing the hardening of racial divisions.

Lancaster Jail

That was not the last of the Paxton Boy’s feats. They organized an even larger assembly of frontiersmen to march against the colony’s capital city, Philadelphia, threatening to kill more Amerindians if the colonial government did not give them protection against Amerindian resistances. As if holding letters of marque, they felt completely entitled to venture into and appropriating Indian land while covered by the British Majesty’s safety. Though they did not meet their economic goal, which was to acquire indigenous-owned lands, they changed politics for ever in Pennsylvania. The Penn dream of racial harmony came to a screeching halt, and Quakers lost their long-held political grip on colonial power. But, most importantly, they left a powerful precedent of justified terror and violence against the “other” non-White. The tacit support from the population at large helped explain the high level of atrocity this event reached, and how it gradually became part of folk legends and culture. The assassins never saw a day in court because they were never prosecuted (one has to question the potential implications of public memorialization of such acts).

mason dixon

Charles Mason, one of the two surveyors of the Mason-Dixon Line, took time away of his surveying to investigate why the people of Lancaster, with the King’s Highlanders in town, did not show much effort in stopping the violence and protecting the last of the Conestogas, as the Susquehannocks living in the Conestoga Town were called. After a mourning and investigative visit to the Lancaster jail in January 1765, to envision the acts and confirm the atrocities he had heard about, Mason wrote in his diary the following words, which represent the view of an outsider who could not make sense of the American mob-culture.

[I] left Brandywine and proceeded to Lancaster (distance about 35 miles) a town in Pennsylvania distant from Philadelphia 75 miles, bearing nearly duly west. What brought me here was my curiosity to see the place where was perpetrated last winter the horrid and inhuman murder of 26 Indians, Men, Women and children, leaving none alive to tell. These poor unhappy creatures had always lived under the protection of the Pennsylvania Government and had lands allotted them a few miles from Lancaster by the late celebrated William Penn, Esquire, Proprietor. They had received notice of the intention of some of the back inhabitants and fled to the Goal (jail) to save themselves. The keeper made the door fast, but it was broken open; and two men went in and executed the bloody scene; while about 50 of their party sat on horse back without; armed with guns, etc. Strange it was that the town as large as most market towns in England, never offered to oppose them, though its more probable they on request might have been assisted by a company of his Majesties Troops who were in the town… no honor to them! What was laid to the Indians charge was that they held a private correspondence with the enemy Indians. But this could never be proved against the men and the women and children (some in their mothers wombs that never saw light) could not be guilty. 2 (emphasis mine)

This is the Mason-Dixon Journal kept at the Library of Congress

This is the Mason-Dixon Journal kept at the Library of Congress


In the perpetrators mind, Amerindians of all kinds should be distrusted. Their religiosity did not matter; neither the many years they have lived peacefully within White society, nor to which community they belonged (to the peaceful or aggressive Indians). They have been forever racialized, reduced to an unbreakable racial category, in which all the Amerindians were one single group, and thus deserving of any type of violence.

Precedents like this one were soon followed by many similar acts and thus became normal practices wherever Amerindians lived amidst fertile lands. Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act of 1830, only makes sense in the context of the Conestogas Massacre. Similarly, the lynching culture, already taking shape under the whip in plantations all over the Americas, add up just after considering violent acts like the one in Conestoga. With the Amerindians gradual decline in the East, the more this sort of violence was deployed against Blacks.

The Haitian American anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot wrote about how power relations shape the production of history, and this may lead to a silencing of the past. In bringing up the historical connections that explain the enduring power of lynching we dig beneath the tranquil surface of national timelines in search for the hidden scripts that often determine unconscious acts of violence against the racialized “other.”
Notes:

1- Mimi Sheller, Citizenship from Below: Erotic Agency and Caribbean Freedom (Duke University Press, 2012), Kindle Locations 117-118.

2- Charles Mason, and Jeremiah Dixon, The journal of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1969).

3- Michel-RolphTrouillot, Silencing the past: Power and the production of history (Beacon Press, 2012), 26.

12 Years a Slave and the Problem of Depicting Human Atrocities | Ana Lucia Araujo

12 Years a Slave and the Problem of Depicting Human Atrocities | Ana Lucia Araujo

Every now and then, thinkers and activists (of a certain kind) manage to convince producers to sponsor a film or TV show about the history of slavery that shocks the establishment. It does, not because the production is necessarily superior (it often is), but because it succeeds in inciting reflection of the intensity and current implications of slavery’s past. For many, the standard has long been Alex Haley’s novel and its inspired TV series, Roots, which transformed much of the intellectual and emotional landscape, not only in the U.S., but in Latin America and even Europe (even despite its controversies).

If college tests’ results, and media’s ignorance are any indication, I would say we need more of this and more often. Fortunately, this year we are witnessed to one of these films. I have not watched the film yet (I live far from any screening or showing), but by reading the criticism, summaries and being familiar with the primary source (autobiography) in which is based, it seems safe to think this film will add to the resources educators can use to bring life to the classroom and will stimulate much-needed intellectual discussion among lay people about a topic often cover by myth, fear and secrecy.

“12 Years” seems to markedly contrast with sweeter films like “Amazing Grace” (2006) in portraying the realities of racial oppression in more stark terms, to the point that Morgan Freeman, an actor in similar films (i.e., Glory 1989′ Invictus 2009) have publicly said he prefers not to watch it. He admitted that this type of film hits the amygdalae hard and there are limits in what a person like him can take of these hits. The crudeness of reality in this film apparently challenges our common practice of escapism in movie-watching.. It also forces watchers to make space for more anger and repulsiveness in their lives.

Time will tell the impact this film will have in the consciousness of people, in and outside of the U.S. As for me, I am eager to watch it, but should recommend reading the original source first, reviews and blogs like that of my colleague Ana Araujo.

Postmodern Paths of Learning?

Portuguese eastern trade routes from Lisbon to...

Portuguese eastern trade routes from Lisbon to Nagasaki (green), and Spanish Manila galleon route (gold))(16th–17th centuries) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new fish in “Fish with Attitude” game whose chance of breeding ends today has captivated my son’s attention. The fish’s name is Lunar Dragon, in honor of the Chinese Lunar New Year—today. In an effort to use this as a “teaching moment,” we learned about Macau’s glamorous building, “Grand Lisboa”– a name with a clear postcolonial meaning (Lisboa is Portugal‘s capital, and Macau was a Portuguese colonial post for many years).

And since my academic focus is on the African Diaspora, my interest led me to the year 1622, when the Dutch attacked Macau, but were repelled mostly by African enslaved soldiers.

At the margins of the global African Diaspora we found the story of a group of Blacks who gave their lives for European imperial interests—an empire built on the cheap (there was never enough money to pay for the expenses, so the empire became good at co-opting-recruiting subjects to accomplish their interests).

File:Portugal Império total.png

Today, the legacy of the African Diaspora is clear in Macau. Unfortunately, Western racism has found new homes in Asia too. Nevertheless, African students, among many others, are devising new ways to assert their influence and carve out a space of dignity.  

Habana, Cuba – A Cuban girl of African and Chinese heritage takes a break from her work at a Chinese restaurant in Barrio Chino. Chinese immigration to Cuba started in 1847 when Spanish settlers brought in Cantonese contract workers to work in the sugar fields. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese workers were brought in from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan during the following decades to replace and/or work alongside African slaves. Some 5,000 Chinese also immigrated from the United States during the late 1800s to escape the discrimination present at the time. A small wave of Chinese immigrants also arrived during the early 20th century to escape the political chaos in China.
Many settled in Havana’s Chinatown (known as (El) Barrio Chino de La Habana) and made it one of the earliest and largest Chinatowns in Latin America. Many used the money they accumulated as indentured laborers to open small grocery stores or restaurants. Generations of Chinese-Cubans married into the larger Spanish, mulatto, and Afro-Cuban populations. Today almost all Chinese-Cubans have mixed African, Spanish, and Chinese ancestry.

Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution – Simon Schama – Google Books

Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution – Simon Schama – Google Books.

Front Cover Schama, a well-known art historian, jumped ships to write a highly evocative and detailed history that should be central to the Black Atlantic. He did so after his popular work on A History of Britain, which should have given him the research background he needed to have written this work. It is arguably a history that only a British scholar could have written, and thus, a much needed one against the blinding American patriotic narrative. We should expect that his critics are not a few–we will get to that later, and mostly from the United States’ side.

I regret not having read it before.

In a way, this is a “British Atlantic History” done in reverse to what has been happening from the United States shores, which has emphasized the position of the former British North American colonies (i.e., 13 colonies) within the broader context of the English-speaking Atlantic. Schama, instead, raises the voices of those who has been writing about Blacks outside of the traditional U.S. patriotic paradigm by showing, more evocative than most, how for Blacks the rhetoric of freedom was clearer from the British than from the U.S. Patriots’ side. In doing so, he is able to help revise U.S. Black History.

Most Holy Death

Exploring the fastest growing popular faith in the Americas - La Santa Muerte

Eleven Points

The Wonderful World of International Table Tennis

Biblioteca Virtual de Puerto Rico

un proyecto creado y desarrollado desde 1997 por Javier Almeyda Loucil

Build Nation

"Truth told, untold and uncovered"

The World of Jacques Roumain

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

dianapiskor

Commentary for Critical Issues in World History

Inter-racial Relationships In Real Life

Support and community for those interested or involved in inter-racial relationships

E-Learning

My MOOC blog

Jennifer McLaren

Exploring the past — stories and lives

Kurtis Scaletta's Site

Info about me and my books

Rossy Díaz

Música Alternativa República Dominicana

Juansin Drama

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Jalinton

ANTROPOLOGIA DOMINICANA

teacherhead

Zest for Learning... into the rainforest of teaching and school leadership

ACADEME BLOG

The blog of Academe magazine

Quartz

Quartz is a digitally native news outlet for the new global economy.

The Port Rail

The View from My Ship

%d bloggers like this: