Dillon, Elizabeth Maddock, and Michael Drexler, eds. The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.
Many undergraduate students in global civilization and US history courses do not have a grammar for the Haitian Revolution. Elizabeth Maddock Dillon and Michael Drexler s timely edited volume The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States offers a corrective by demonstrating how imbricated these histories, geographies, and stories remain. In this collection, the authors link Haiti's history with early US history. The volume is organized around the three major themes of history, geography, and textualities; this organization enables the reader to think through the ways that the Haitian Revolution and early American histories were and remain entwined.
The "Textualities" section asks readers to engage with a variety of texts that require a rethinking of the role of Haiti in American History. It behooves scholars to reject schematics that place these two textual traditions into discreet categories: here is Haiti and there is the United States. In "The Constitution of Toussaint: Another Origin of African-American Literature," Michael Drexler and Ed White demonstrate that the Toussaint Constitution is a contextualizing document, an ethnography, and a narrative of larger Haitian and trans-Atlantic concerns. The scholars contributing to this section write about the interconnected nature of the Atlantic World using novels, political texts, newspapers, and plays as their sources. In so doing, they provide a wholly different understanding of the Atlantic World, romance and realism, the Toussaint Constitution, the sophisticated early American understanding of the Haitian Revolution, and American awareness of Haitian texts more broadly. By opening a conversation about countermemory and alternative archives, "this section invites future research on questions of Haitian and American archives, memory, and print culture.
The essays in the "Histories" section provide readers with thought-provoking analyses of the entwined nature of US and Haitian history. Ducan Faherty illustrates how rumor shaped Americans' understandings of Haitians and the Revolution in the context of their own slaveholding society. Americans feared Haitian "infection" of the American slave population with rebellious slave "vectors," whose rumored arrival brought forth quarantine orders and mobilized militias. The essays in this...