Caribbean Crossing

Caribbean Crossing

African Americans and the Haitian Emigration Movement

Early American Places

by Sara Fanning

Published by: NYU Press

192 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in

  • Hardcover
  • ISBN: 9780814764930
  • Published: January 2015



Shortly after winning its independence in 1804, Haiti’s leaders realized
that if their nation was to survive, it needed to build strong diplomatic bonds
with other nations. Haiti’s first leaders looked especially hard at the United
States, which had a sizeable free black population that included vocal
champions of black emigration and colonization. In the 1820s, President
Jean-Pierre Boyer helped facilitate a migration of thousands of black Americans
to Haiti with promises of ample land, rich commercial prospects, and most
importantly, a black state. His ideas struck a chord with both blacks and
whites in America. Journalists and black community leaders advertised emigration
to Haiti as a way for African Americans to resist discrimination and show the
world that the black race could be an equal on the world stage, while
antislavery whites sought to support a nation founded by liberated slaves.
Black and white businessmen were excited by trade potential, and racist whites
viewed Haiti has a way to export the race problem that plagued America.

By the end of the decade, black Americans migration to Haiti began to ebb as
emigrants realized that the Caribbean republic wasn’t the black Eden they’d
anticipated. Caribbean Crossing
documents the rise and fall of the campaign for black emigration to Haiti,
drawing on a variety of archival sources to share the rich voices of the
emigrants themselves. Using letters, diary accounts, travelers’ reports,
newspaper articles, and American, British, and French consulate records, Sara
Fanning profiles the emigrants and analyzes the diverse motivations that fueled
this unique early moment in both American and Haitian history.