Haitian Odysseys StoryMap

Embark on a journey with a Haitian family, the Granvilles, to gain insights into patterns of mobility for the African diaspora in the nineteenth century.

Portrait of a man in a coat. His right hand is inside his lapel. He's the subject of this page on mapping the Haitian Diaspora in the 19th century
Jonathas Granville as represented in the biography published by his son in 1873.

Mapping the Haitian Diaspora

First, what does this family’s experience of migrating while Black tell us about the way people of  African descent understood their place in the world in the 19th century?

Then, the right to travel was often withheld from people of African descent, both enslaved and free. The journeys of the Granville family reveals the circuitous routes and support networks that made travel possible. In claiming the right to cross borders, travelers like the Granvilles challenged white authorities to reconsider the place of Afro-descendants in the Atlantic World.

Edgar La Selve. Haitian women on a walk. La République d’Haïti (1871)

Finally, what does their experience of migrating while Haitian differ from the more familiar story of exile and instability that we associate with Haiti? Mapping the Haitian Diaspora is a strong reminder that Haiti was a popular destination in the nineteenth century. For people of African descent who faced discrimination and violence in other parts of the world, Haiti stood as a country of equality and opportunity.

 

Dynamic map retracing the journeys of the Granville family, 1780-1830s

This project expands on my article, “Going home: the back-to-Haiti movement in the early nineteenth century.”Atlantic Studies 16, no 2 (2019): 184-202 DOI.

A bit more context

Born in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue, Jonathas Granville went to school in Paris during the revolution. While he was there, Saint-Domingue gained its independence and became the country of Haiti.  Jonathas’ mother and two sisters joined him in France. Jonathas served as a junior officer in Napoléon’s army across Europe. Like other Haitians exiled in France, the family decided to return to the country of their birth. Surrounded by a world ruled by racial discrimination and slavery, they devoted their lives to building the new nation of Haiti around the principles of education and equality. Jonathas traveled to the United States to encourage African Americans to move to Haiti.