Short-Term Research Fellows
Subjects of the King: Bourbon Royalism and the Origins of the Haitian Revolution, 1763-1804
Jesús Ruiz, Ph.D Candidate at Tulane University and Short-Term Research Fellow at the Schomburg Center, writes about his first ever visit to the Schomburg Center's Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division, and his elation over discovering rare gems in our collections:
Having never visited the Schomburg Center, I was immediately impressed by the excellent physical state of the documents as I mined through the Haiti Miscellaneous Collection. I found fascinating records, most of which are in French, dealing with some of the reactions that both American and French authorities had to the revolts of August 1791 in the northern plains of Saint Domingue. From cutouts of a Baltimore newspaper in the early 1790s translating a speech given by Toussaint Louverture in the French colony, to official correspondence between various British, American, and French captains, generals and Citoyens, respectively, this collection helped me begin to establish some important transatlantic links between Saint-Domingue, the British Empire, and the United States. Although my project does not deal directly with masonry, I was impressed by the amount of documents pertaining to masonic lodges/societies in late colonial and early-modern Haiti, which could be of particular interest to scholars.
I was also very intrigued by some documents in the Kurt Fisher Haitian Collection, which included petitions for pensions by former military members of Toussaint Louverture’s forces early in the revolution. These requests provide interesting insight into the life of soldiers early in the insurrection and are both in original French and English translations, which makes them fairly easy to navigate. Even though these types of petitions can be found in other repositories, it is an advantage to be able to have English translations of them on hand. Another important collection is the Joseph Boromé Papers. Boromé provides a very detailed database of primary source material from around the world pertaining to Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution. He is careful to provide short English translations of documents, whether they be in their original Spanish or French, and also provides individual summaries of the thousands of documents he outlines. It is quite an impressive collection.
The Melville J. and Frances S. Herskovits Papers is an unorthodox collection for me to research as my work is much more historical than anthropological. Yet, Herskovits’ notes on the Dahomanian and Agbomanian cultures in West Africa provide critical information, not only about West African cosmological beliefs, but also their ideological dispositions. Reading his notes from his trip to West Africa, then analyzing his field notes from his 1934 trip to Haiti and specifically his work on the Voodoo religion has been a very valuable experience. Of course, his focus on African cultural and religious continuities in the Americas is tangible, but it is the almost back-and-forth rhythm that he creates between these two trips that makes this collection special.
My research stay at the Schomburg Center has been very helpful in finding documentation that I hope to be able to use in my dissertation project. The staff, personnel, archivists, and curators at the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division work with the utmost professionalism, and they are always available for questions. They run an extremely efficient reading room. Their work does not go unnoticed and is extremely appreciated.