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Samaná Community

Collaboration with the CUNY Dominican Studies Archive.

We Choose Freedom:
Bicentennial Commemoration of
US Black Immigration to Haiti / Hispaniola

After Spanish Haiti and the Republic of Haiti were integrated into one nation in 1822, invitations were extended in 1824 to freed African American communities in the United States to help build the first Black republic in the Americas. Between 1824-1826, upwards of 13,000 African Americans emigrated from the United States to Haiti, which then governed the whole island of Hispaniola. 2024 will mark the 200-year anniversary of the little-known history of African American migrations to Haiti/Hispaniola. We are supporting in the organization of the transnational celebration of this migration's 200-year anniversary. 


A digital database on JSTOR of historical documents pertaining to the birth, baptism, and marriage of community members has been developed in collaboration with the Dominican Studies Archive at CUNY. These documents highlight the connection of the population of Samaná to other Caribbean islands and the constant maritime exchanges that are a part of its history. Freedom from slavery was an organizing ethos of nineteenth-century politics in the Circum-Caribbean. The “We Choose Freedom: Samaná, Dominican Republic” digital archive is an open-access repository of nineteenth and twentieth-century documents. The initial creation of the archive was funded by the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials, The CUNY Dominican Studies Library and Archives, and the Institute for Socio-Ecological Research. With this support, in 2019, a small team, including Dr. Ryan Mann-Hamilton, Librarian Jhensen Ortiz, and Sophia Monegro, traveled to the St. Peter’s Evangelical and the AME Mother Bethel churches in Samaná to preserve over 500 documents, ranging from Birth Records to Marriage Certificates from the 1870s to 1970.  


New digital archives are more than history; they are a vital part of their current survival and possible future. These delicate archives and the important stories they hold about African descendant people’s unwavering freedom struggles are at increased risk of being forever lost in this climate-venerable region. This archival digital practice ensures the retention of this history, making never-before-seen primary sources available for scholars to continue writing the little-known history of African American immigration to Samaná and across the island. 


 >> Explore the Documents

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