With the emergence of the Haitian Revolution as a subfield in its own right, students and fellow scholars are often avid to uncover the experiences and activities of women during the Haitian Revolution. Some explore the apocryphal, quasi-folkloric accounts of such figures as Cécille Fatiman or Catherine Flon, or the innumerable female entities within the Vodou pantheon. But overall, the Haitian Revolution and the history of early Haiti are better documented that people might think. Our field will continue to discover important new historical characters and stories just as Jean-Alix René has done recently with his discovery of the 1825 petition of the African-born coffee farmer Cupidon Guillotte. This presentation will introduce an early-stage research project centered around glimpses of the life of a former slave woman called Gautiche. Brought into exile in Philadelphia by her owner, a wealthy French planter who fled the revolution - Gautiche was an especially favored and trusted slave who may well have been the planter's concubine. At the point that the master sold all of his other slaves, he freed Gautiche and sent her back to Saint Domingue hoping she would act as a kind of agent and help him regain his plantation. Gautiche re-entered the historical record in 1811 when a wartime Haitian government desperate for hard currency sold her a large tract of farmland in exchange for her savings: a small hoard of old colonial coins in gold and silver. Here I will discuss the methods and the special sources that led me to the negresse Gautiche and the ways in which we might use oblique and speculative methods based on our broader knowledge of the early Haitian context in order to consider the vast silences and unkown dimensions of her story.
Dr Johnhenry Gonzalez is a lecturer in Caribbean and Atlantic History at the University of Cambridge. Dr Gonzalez is a historian of the Caribbean, with a primary focus on the history of Haiti. His work grows out of lengthy periods of research in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Dr Gonzalez received his B.A. in history from Harvard College and PhD in history from the University of Chicago. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Duke and worked for four years as an assistant professor of Caribbean history at the University of South Florida at Tampa.
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