Over the last two decades, the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) has become an important topic of study among many U.S. scholars. The transformative events that ended slavery in French Saint-Domingue and gave birth to the second independent nation in the Americas are now discussed in graduate and undergraduate classes across the country. Scholarly findings about the Haitian Revolution have appeared in several compilations, representing various subfields and trends of study. This new compilation of essays, however, engages mainly with the postrevolutionary history of Haiti, highlighting the past and present engagements of the Caribbean country with the rest of the Americas.
As Raphael Dalleo explains in the introduction, one of the most important premises of the book is that Haiti has been, and continues to be, a major crossroads in the hemisphere, one that is not only geographic but one in which “past, present and future intersect” (p. 3). Although this temporal complexity most likely characterizes any place ever inhabited by human beings, the book itself takes a crossroads approach to the history of Haiti. In this compilation, the disciplines of history, art history, literature, film studies, philosophy, and political science crisscross Haiti in a dynamic effort to address different aspects of its history from the early nineteenth century to the beginnings of the twenty-first century. Haiti’s complex interactions with other societies in the Caribbean and across the Americas serve as the common thread throughout the book.
The first part of the book deals with collaborations between Haitians [End Page 659] and anticolonial activists from the Spanish Americas, particularly from early-republican Colombia and late-colonial Cuba. The two essays in this section explore the legacy of the Haitian Revolution as a positive force for political thought and action among pro-independence circles. Likewise, part two of the book examines the active role of Haitians in the emergence of pan-Africanism and the construction of critical alternatives to the dominant racist thinking of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The essays in this part of the book concentrate on social dynamics and pay attention to the effects of U.S. interventions in the Caribbean. Part three concentrates on artistic and literary production by Haitians and Americans during the ambiguous encounters brought about by the U.S. occupation of Haiti starting in 1915. Finally, the essays in part four, “Globalization and Crisis,” critically address the representations of current-day Haiti in the fields of film and international policy. By evaluating the ideological and economic backgrounds of those representations, as well as the on-the-ground dynamics of international assistance, the two essays in this part show how global powers seem to be interested in continuing to engage with Haiti on unequal terms.
This collection of essays should prove a useful resource for specialists and non-specialists alike. The book covers important aspects of Haitian history and the interactions of Haiti with other societies of the Caribbean, the Americas, and the larger Atlantic world. The essays gracefully combine this large-scope approach with detailed insight into the lived experiences of men and women who inhabited Haiti, visited the country, or were influenced by its history. From this book we learn much about the dynamic and complicated processes that link Haiti and Cuba, Anténor Firmin and Booker T. Washington, and the Caribbean with the rest of the Americas and Europe. [End Page 660]
EDGARDO PÉREZ MORALES teaches at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, New York University. He is the author of El gran Diablo hecho barco. Corsarios, esclavos y revolución en Cartagena y el Gran Caribe (2012).