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The Fear of French Negroes

The Fear of French Negroes: Transcolonial Collaboration in the Revolutionary Americas

Sara E. Johnson
Series: FlashPoints
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Fear of French Negroes
    Book Description:

    The Fear of French Negroesis an interdisciplinary study that explores how people of African descent responded to the collapse and reconsolidation of colonial life in the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1845). Using visual culture, popular music and dance, periodical literature, historical memoirs, and state papers, Sara E. Johnson examines the migration of people, ideas, and practices across imperial boundaries. Building on previous scholarship on black internationalism, she traces expressions of both aesthetic and experiential transcolonial black politics across the Caribbean world, including Hispaniola, Louisiana and the Gulf South, Jamaica, and Cuba. Johnson examines the lives and work of figures as diverse as armed black soldiers and privateers, female performers, and newspaper editors to argue for the existence of "competing inter-Americanisms" as she uncovers the struggle for unity amidst the realities of class, territorial, and linguistic diversity. These stories move beyond a consideration of the well-documented anxiety insurgent blacks occasioned in slaveholding systems to refocus attention on the wide variety of strategic alliances they generated in their quests for freedom, equality and profit.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95378-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Preface: The Fear of “French Negroes”
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  6. Introduction: Mobile Culture, Mobilized Politics
    (pp. 1-20)

    Communication networks between subjects of different European empires in the Americas have always thrived, despite being closely regulated and habitually proscribed. Given the climate of competitive mercantilist politics in the region, imperial officialdom militated against unmediated interactions between their colonies and other metropoles. However, contact, most importantly in the form of trade, was essential to the survival of early Caribbean and North American societies that imported basic foodstuffs, luxury items, and enslaved men and women from neighboring territories. Black markets existed alongside sanctioned ones, and colonial officials were known to turn a blind eye to activities that offered a financial...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Canine Warfare in the Circum-Caribbean
    (pp. 21-48)

    As captured in the epigraphs, slavery in the plantation Americas was a “veritable state of war” between opposing factions: masters, whose rights were upheld by a legal, social, and cultural fabric of institutions that guaranteed their dominion over human beings designated as property, and the women and men compelled to work as slaves. Despite the apparent distance suggested by these third-person assessments, Moreau de Saint-Méry and Baron de Vastey were creole intellectuals who were intimately familiar with the system. The first was proslavery, albeit unusual in that he left copious and nuanced ethnographic descriptions of black life.¹ The latter was...

  8. CHAPTER 2 “Une et indivisible?” The Struggle for Freedom in Hispaniola
    (pp. 49-90)

    In 1845, a local Dominican artist published one of the first engravings in the Dominican Republic (figure 10).¹General haitiano en marcha (Haitian General on the March)is striking for several reasons. First, the image is a visual representation of what both the creole plantocracy and metropolitan authorities most dreaded during the age of the Haitian Revolution—armed, organized slaves and free people of color ready and able to protect their interests. These are the “French negroes” so feared and vilified throughout the Americas. Significantly, the general is forcibly dragging a dog behind him, dominating the animal in a way...

  9. CHAPTER 3 “Negroes of the Most Desperate Character”: Privateering and Slavery in the Gulf of Mexico
    (pp. 91-121)

    In August 1817, a customs officer in New Orleans named Beverly Chew voiced grave concerns about the smuggling activity occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. In a letter to William Crawford, the U.S. secretary of the Treasury, he wrote: “I deem it my duty to state that the most shameful violations of the slave acts, as well as our revenue laws, continue to be practiced with impunity, by a motley mixture of freebooters and smugglers at Galveston, under the Mexican flag, being in reality little less than the re-establishment of Lafitte’s[sic]Barataria bands, somewhat more out of reach of...

  10. CHAPTER 4 French Set Girls and Transcolonial Performance
    (pp. 122-156)

    Performative culture provides an excellent medium to study the dialogues that took place between members of mobile black communities. The interconnectedness of the colonial landscape was evident in the signifying practices of an intellectual citizenry of musicians and their dancing adepts. I examine how people employed fashion, movement, and sound to define themselves and community in the rigidly hierarchical context of plantation slavery. The constantly evolving practices I discuss provide an example of how forced migrations resulted in a deliberate use of transcolonial experiences to create new knowledge bases of both a conceptual and a material nature.

    I frame the...

  11. chapter 5 “Sentinels on the Watch-Tower of Freedom”: The Black Press of the 1830s and 1840s
    (pp. 157-188)

    Between 1830 and 1845 the political economy of American slavery came under renewed attack. Slave revolts such as Samuel Sharpe’s Baptist War (Jamaica, 1831–32), Nat Turner’s rebellion (Virginia, 1831), the Muslim Revolt /Revolta dos Malês(Brazil, 1835), and the Second Seminole War (1835–42) signaled a continuation of the armed resistance against planter control that occurred at the turn of the century during the unfolding and immediate aftermath of the Haitian Revolution.¹ For example, Jose Chirino’s rebellion (Venezuela, 1795), the Second Maroon War (Jamaica, 1795–96), the Boca Nigua revolt (Santo Domingo, 1796), Gabriel Prosser’s revolt (Virginia, 1800),...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 189-194)

    Decades after the Haitian Revolution, stories of willing and forced migration across colonial frontier were still news. The May 1841 edition of theRevue des Coloniesopened with a five-page article recounting the vicissitudes of a family of manumitted slave women entitled “Un épisode de l’histoire de l’esclavage à la Martinique.” Although the title of the piece situates the tale in Martinique, it is a transcolonial American narrative about bondage, relocation, and the struggle for liberty and self-determination. According to the details presented, three domestic female slaves of “le Sieur C****” left Saint-Domingue with their owners at the onset of...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 195-244)
  14. Works Consulted and Discography
    (pp. 245-276)
  15. Index
    (pp. 277-289)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 290-290)