Haitian Studies Association

H.S.A. Book Awards

The Haitian Studies Association’s biennial Haiti Book Prize is awarded to the best single-authored book in Haitian studies in the social sciences, with broad application beyond the academy.

2023 Recipient (HSA Book Prize)

Grace Sanders Johnson (2023) White Gloves, Black Nation: Women, Citizenship, and Political Wayfaring in Haiti – University of North Carolina Press

White Gloves, Black Nation is a groundbreaking work that sheds light on Haitian women’s often overlooked but pivotal role in the country’s historical and political landscape. The author’s meticulous engagement with primary sources is commendable, offering readers a comprehensive understanding of the contributions made by Haitian women activists, thinkers, and leaders in the struggle for democracy and women’s full integration into society.

The book skillfully contextualizes the Ligue Féminine d’Action Sociale (LFAS) efforts within Haiti’s broader historical and political context, particularly in their battle for rights, education, and societal integration. One of the book’s standout features is the extraordinary amount of research that underpins its content. Sanders Johnson’s work is a testament to her dedication to unraveling the transnational histories of Haitian women’s political life, particularly during and after the US occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. The use of digital humanities to navigate a vast archive is notably effective, providing readers with an ambitious and comprehensive account of this crucial period.

Grace Sanders Johnson’s thorough and illuminating exploration of the contributions of Haitian women activists is a welcome and invaluable contribution to the field. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding women’s dynamic and transformative role in Haiti’s political landscape.

2023 Honorary Mentions

Crystal Eddins (2021) Rituals, Runaways, and the Haitian Revolution: Collective Action in the African Diaspora – Cambridge University Press.

Rituals, Runaways, and the Haitian Revolution by Crystal Eddins is an insightful contribution to Africana Studies, weaving together accounts of resistance to slavery with a comprehensive narrative from Africa to Saint-Domingue/Haiti. Eddins adeptly utilizes qualitative, numerical, and textual data to construct a nuanced and well-supported portrayal of the radical actions taken by Africans and Haitians in their pursuit of liberty on various scales.

One of the book’s standout features is Eddins’ adept application of sociological theory to illuminate the lives and actions of runaway communities in Haiti. Additionally, the book examines the often-overlooked roles of runaway/maroon women in the French colony, providing a vital contribution to contemporary studies. Eddins’ assertion of a shared collective consciousness among revolution participants sheds light on the intricate relationship between ritual and what she terms “free space,” where marronage served as a vehicle for collective action.

Rituals, Runaways, and the Haitian Revolution bridges multiple academic disciplines, offering a sweeping yet meticulously detailed examination of resistance to slavery in the African diaspora. This book is essential for anyone seeking a deeper comprehension of the interconnected struggles for freedom and agency in Haiti’s history.

Leslie Alexander (2023) Fear of a Black Republic: Haiti and the Birth of Black Internationalism in the United States – University of Illinois Press

Fear of a Black Republic by Leslie Alexander draws from an extensive array of primary sources to offer a fresh and meticulous exploration of the relationship between African Americans and the Haitian Revolution. Alexander’s creative and insightful interpretations breathe life into the historical trajectories and contexts of the subject matter, shedding light on a wealth of previously unexplored primary sources from the nineteenth century. In doing so, this book illuminates how revolutionary Haiti served as a beacon of inspiration for abolitionism and aspirations for Black autonomy and sovereignty within American society.

Alexander’s work provides readers with a comprehensive theoretical framework, tracing a multi-century backlash against the idea of a Black republic. Examining how this fear, ingrained within public spheres shaped by white supremacy, influenced Black thought and action in the United States is a significant contribution to the field.

Fear of a Black Republic provides a comprehensive understanding of the enduring impact of Haiti’s revolutionary legacy on Black internationalism. This book is vital to the discourse on race, resistance, and the struggle for freedom in the Americas.

2021 Recipient (HSA Book Prize)

Yveline Alexis, Haiti Fights Back: The Life and Legacy of Charlemagne Péralte (Rutgers University Press, 2021)

Haiti Fights Back: The Life and Legacy of Charlemagne Péralte is the first US scholarly examination of the politician and caco leader (guerrilla fighter) who fought against the US military occupation of Haiti. The occupation lasted close to two decades, from 1915-1934. Alexis argues for the importance of documenting resistance while exploring the occupation’s mechanics and its imperialism. She takes us to Haiti, exploring the sites of what she labels as resistance zones, including Péralte’s hometown of Hinche and the nation’s large port areas–Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien. Alexis offers a new reading of U.S. military archival sources that record Haitian protests as banditry. Haiti Fights Back illuminates how Péralte launched a political movement, and meticulously captures how Haitian women and men resisted occupation through silence, military battles, and writings. She locates and assembles rare, multilingual primary sources from traditional repositories, living archives (oral stories), and artistic representations in Haiti and the United States. The interdisciplinary work draws on legislation, cacos’ letters, newspapers, and murals, offering a unique examination of Péralte’s life (1885-1919) and the significance of his legacy through the twenty-first century. Haiti Fights Back offers a new approach to the study of the U.S. invasion of the Americas by chronicling how Caribbean people fought back.

2021 Honorary Mention

Sepinwall, Alyssa, Slave Revolt on Screen: The Haitian Revolution in Film and Video Games (University Press of Mississippi, 2021)

In Slave Revolt on Screen: The Haitian Revolution in Film and Video Games author Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall analyzes how films and video games from around the world have depicted slave revolt, focusing on the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). This event, the first successful revolution by enslaved people in modern history, sent shock waves throughout the Atlantic World. Regardless of its historical significance however, this revolution has become less well-known—and appears less often on screen—than most other revolutions; its story, involving enslaved Africans liberating themselves through violence, does not match the suffering-slaves-waiting-for-a-white-hero genre that pervades Hollywood treatments of Black history.

Despite Hollywood’s near-silence on this event, some films on the Revolution do exist—from directors in Haiti, the US, France, and elsewhere. Slave Revolt on Screen offers the first-ever comprehensive analysis of Haitian Revolution cinema, including completed films and planned projects that were never made.

In addition to studying cinema, this book also breaks ground in examining video games, a pop-culture form long neglected by historians. Sepinwall scrutinizes video game depictions of Haitian slave revolt that appear in games like the Assassin’s Creed series that have reached millions more players than comparable films. In analyzing films and games on the revolution, Slave Revolt on Screen calls attention to the ways that economic legacies of slavery and colonialism warp pop-culture portrayals of the past and leave audiences with distorted understandings.

2019 Recipients (HSA Book Prize)

Marlene L. Daut, Baron de Vastey and the Origins of Black Atlantic Humanism (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017)

Focusing on the influential life and works of the Haitian political writer and statesman, Baron de Vastey (1781-1820), in this book Marlene L. Daut examines the legacy of Vastey’s extensive writings as a form of what she calls black Atlantic humanism, a discourse devoted to attacking the enlightenment foundations of colonialism. Daut argues that Vastey, the most important secretary of Haiti’s King Henry Christophe, was a pioneer in a tradition of deconstructing colonial racism and colonial slavery that is much more closely associated with twentieth-century writers like W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, and Aimé Césaire. By expertly forging exciting new historical and theoretical connections among Vastey and these later twentieth-century writers, as well as eighteenth- and nineteenth-century black Atlantic authors, such as Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Jacobs, Daut proves that any understanding of the genesis of Afro-diasporic thought must include Haiti’s Baron de Vastey.

Patti Marxsen, Jacques Roumain: A Life of Resistance (EducaVision, 2019)

This biography of Haitian public intellectual and writer, Jacques Roumain (1907–1944), explores his brief life within the context of his times—the American Occupation of Haiti, the rise of fascism in Europe, racism in the U.S., and Marxism. An articulate witness and activist, Roumain exposed injustice through poetry, essays, novels, and short fiction. His political thought emerges through these works, several of which are included here in English translation. Though best known in the U.S. as author of Masters of the Dew, Roumain was more than a literary writer. This thorough examination of his life, based on extensive archival research, retraces his formative years in Haiti and Europe, his study of ethnology in Paris, and periods of enforced exile in Europe, Harlem, Cuba, and Mexico. His close relationship with his wife Nicole is illuminated through passages of his letters to her, published here in English for the first time. This engagingly written biography presents the first full picture of this remarkable Haitian to Anglophone readers.

Jeffrey Kahn, Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2018)

In Islands of Sovereignty, anthropologist and legal scholar Jeffrey S. Kahn offers a new interpretation of the transformation of US borders during the late twentieth century and its implications for our understanding of the nation-state as a legal and political form. Kahn takes us on a voyage into the immigration tribunals of South Florida, the Coast Guard vessels patrolling the northern Caribbean, and the camps of Guantánamo Bay—once the world’s largest US-operated migrant detention facility—to explore how litigation concerning the fate of Haitian asylum seekers gave birth to a novel paradigm of offshore oceanic migration policing. Combining ethnography—in Haiti, at Guantánamo, and alongside US migration patrols in the Caribbean—with in-depth archival research, Kahn expounds a nuanced theory of liberal empire’s dynamic tensions and its racialized geographies of securitization. An innovative historical anthropology of the modern legal imagination, Islands of Sovereignty forces us to reconsider the significance of the rise of the current US immigration border and its relation to broader shifts in the legal infrastructure of contemporary nation-states across the globe.

2017 Recipients (Avant Garde Book Prize)

Alex Bellande. Haïti déforestée, paysages remodelés (CIDIHCA, 2015)

Haïti déforestée, paysages remodelés

By challeng​ing one of the most oft-cited clichés about Haiti — that it is ​a treeless desert destroyed by a peasantry that doesn’t know any better​ –​ Alex Bellande develops a critical ​perspective on​ the problem of deforestation in Haiti. According to​ Bellande, “the figures on forest cover give the impression of a “desertified” space, but these are based on hasty approximations without any real scientific basis​.​” ​He sets out to represent the country’s tree cover more accurately, paying close attention to the types of trees​and​the importance of wood products​in the peasant economy. Haïti déforestée begins with the 200-year history of exporting wood as a raw material for the US and European textile, shipbuilding, tanning, furniture and pharmacy industries. Bellande then analyzes, based on recent scientific studies, the extent and composition of current tree cover. Using satellite imaging techniques, Bellande finds that ​ the tree cover is closer to 29%. Filled with valuable information, the book offers a new perspective on the history of deforestation in Haiti and its causes and proposes a more ​ locally and historically -informed ​ approach for efforts ​ aimed at preserving the environment.

​Just as the previous winners of the prize, Alex Bellande’s Haïti déforestée strengthens the field of Haitian Studies.

Honorable Mentions:

Anne Eller. We Dream Together: Dominican Independence, Haiti, and the Fight for Caribbean Freedom (Duke University Press, 2016)

We Dream Together - Anne Eller

In We Dream Together, assistant professor of History at Yale UniversityAnne Eller breaks away from the dominant narratives of conflict between the Dominican Republic and Haiti to trace the complicated history of Dominican emancipation and independence. Eller summons sources that range from trial records and consul reports to poetry and song to show how Haitian and Dominican political roots are deeply entwined. Together, they fostered a common commitment to Caribbean freedom, the abolition of slavery, and popular democracy.

Sean Mills. A Place in the Sun: Haiti, Haitians, and the Remaking of Quebec (McGill-Queens University Press, 2016)

A Place in the Sun demonstrates the ways in which Haitian migrants opened new debates, exposed new tensions, and forever altered Quebec society. Mills, who is  assistant professor of history at the University of Toronto and also the author of The Empire Within: Postcolonial Thought and Political Activism in Sixties Montreal,​ pays attention to the ideas and activities of Haitian taxi drivers, exiled priests, aspiring authors, dissident intellectuals, and feminist activists, which leads to a reconsideration of the historical actors of Quebec intellectual and political life, and challenges the traditional tendency to view migrants as peripheral to Quebec history.

2015 Recipients (Haiti Illumination Book Prize)

Ada Ferrer. Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Matthew Smith. Liberty, Fraternity, Exile: Haiti and Jamaica after Emancipation (University of North Carolina Press, 2014)

2013 Recipients (Haiti Illumination Book Prize)

Kate Ramsey. The Spirits and the Law; Vodou and Power in Haiti (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

Georges Eddy Lucien. Une modernization manqué; Port-au-Prince (1915-1956) (Editions de l’Université d’Etat d’Haiti, 2013)