The Fear of French Negroes is 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.
Sara E. Johnson is Associate Professor of Literature at UC San Diego.