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Going home: The back-to-Haiti movement in the early nineteenth century

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Vanessa Mongey


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This article explores the back-to-Haiti movement, a phase of return migration from France to Haiti in the early nineteenth century. The upheaval caused by the Haitian revolution between 1791 and 1804 led thousands of colonists to seek refuge around the Atlantic basin. Although many then chose to remain in their host countries, some decided to return to the country of their birth. The life trajectories of these returning migrants provide critical insights into free black agency within the shifting definitions of race and mobility in the Atlantic world. The diplomatic non-recognition of Haiti by Atlantic powers meant that the migrants developed strategies to secure their travels, using their networks to obtain travel papers and taking circuitous routes via the USA or Saint Thomas to return to Haiti. The back-to-Haiti movement had a significant impact on the construction of post-independence Haiti: the returning migrants capitalized on skills and connections acquired abroad to secure and enhance their status in Haiti, notably through the promotion of migration and education. By following one prominent family, the Granvilles, this essay provides insights into patterns of mobility across linguistic and geographical boundaries. They helped organize and transport migrants from the USA and they – and this was especially true of women – played a key role in the development of education. The Granvilles’ integration in both France and Haiti depended on two key strategies: the establishment of extended transnational networks and their image as a family of education and influence.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mongey V

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Atlantic Studies

Year: 2019

Volume: 16

Issue: 2

Pages: 184-202

Online publication date: 02/04/2018

Acceptance date: 27/01/2018

ISSN (print): 1478-8810

ISSN (electronic): 1740-4649

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/14788810.2018.1434283


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