The Black Republic

The Black Republic
African Americans and the Fate of Haiti

Brandon R. Byrd

328 pages | 6 x 9 | 15 illus.
Cloth Nov 2019 | ISBN 9780812251708 | $39.95a | Outside the Americas £33.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series America in the Nineteenth Century

"Brandon R. Byrd tracks the history of an idea, possibly even an aspiration, of how Haiti haunted African American political thought in myriad ways, while also demonstrating the vexed relationship various U.S. black thinkers had with the first black independent republic. The Black Republic will prove an invaluable work of scholarship that will transform how historians and scholars more generally approach black political thought and black intellectual life."—Minkah Makalani, University of Texas Austin
In The Black Republic, Brandon R. Byrd explores the ambivalent attitudes that African American leaders in the post-Civil War era held toward Haiti, the first and only black republic in the Western Hemisphere. Following emancipation, African American leaders of all kinds—politicians, journalists, ministers, writers, educators, artists, and diplomats—identified new and urgent connections with Haiti, a nation long understood as an example of black self-determination. They celebrated not only its diplomatic recognition by the United States but also the renewed relevance of the Haitian Revolution.

While a number of African American leaders defended the sovereignty of a black republic whose fate they saw as intertwined with their own, others expressed concern over Haiti's fitness as a model black republic, scrutinizing whether the nation truly reflected the "civilized" progress of the black race. Influenced by the imperialist rhetoric of their day, many African Americans across the political spectrum espoused a politics of racial uplift, taking responsibility for the "improvement" of Haitian education, politics, culture, and society. They considered Haiti an uncertain experiment in black self-governance: it might succeed and vindicate the capabilities of African Americans demanding their own right to self-determination or it might fail and condemn the black diasporic population to second-class status for the foreseeable future.

When the United States military occupied Haiti in 1915, it created a crisis for W. E. B. Du Bois and other black activists and intellectuals who had long grappled with the meaning of Haitian independence. The resulting demand for and idea of a liberated Haiti became a cornerstone of the anticapitalist, anticolonial, and antiracist radical black internationalism that flourished between World War I and World War II. Spanning the Reconstruction, post-Reconstruction, and Jim Crow eras, The Black Republic recovers a crucial and overlooked chapter of African American internationalism and political thought.

Brandon R. Byrd teaches history at Vanderbilt University.

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