Haiti and the U.S. : African American emigration and the recognition debate

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Fanning, Sara

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My dissertation examines the cultural, political, and economic relationship between Haiti and the United States in the early nineteenth century--a key period in the development of both young nations. Most scholarship on this relationship has revolved around either the Haitian Revolution or later periods, from the mid-nineteenth century onward. Through trade, migration, and politics, the two countries had a more substantial role in one another's formative years than the literature currently suggests. Haitian leaders actively sought to attract African Americans to the island and believed they were crucial to improving Haiti's economic and political standing. African Americans became essential players in determining the nature of Haiti and U.S. relations, and the migration of thousands to Haiti in the 1820s proved to be the apogee of the two countries' interconnectedness. Drawing on a variety of materials, including emigrant letters, diary accounts, travelers' reports, newspaper editorials, the National Archives' Passenger Lists, Haitian government proclamations, Haitian newspapers, and American, British, and French consulate records, I analyze the diverse political and social motivations that fueled African American emigration. The project links Haitian nation building and Haitian struggles for recognition to American abolitionism and commercial development.