Given the increasingly fractured interactions between Haiti and the United States in the twentieth century that recently culminated in what one critic has called the “alleged kidnapping of Aristide,” it would be more than tempting to conclude that Haitians have always been the victims of an unequivocally “bad press” which they were powerless to influence. However, an examination of the complicated interactions between early Haitian political writers and the northern U.S. newspaper press in the first two decades of Haitian independence suggests that the idea of Haiti as a powerless “apparent state” with an unimportant literary tradition is a concept of more recent date. Based on literary reviews and advertisements in nineteenth-century U.S. newspapers, as well as the holdings of U.S. libraries during that time, U.S. readers living in the northern states were well acquainted with Haitian authors generally and with the works of the Baron de Vastey (1781–1820) in particular. Vastey composed at least ten prose works, all of which circulated either in the original or in English translation in the Atlantic World. U.S. newspapers in the north that printed or reviewed Vastey's works tended to view Haiti favorably and argued for formal recognition of Haitian independence, as well as continued trade with the country. Vastey's ideas were thus crucial to the development of northern U.S. American attitudes towards Haitian independence in the early nineteenth century, and one reviewer of his works called him “the ‘Alpha and Omega’ of Haitian intellect and literature.” I argue therefore that, contrary to popular belief, Haiti was not isolated by non-recognition in the first two decades of independence, if by isolation we mean cut off from the rest of the world either economically or culturally.
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Marlene L. Daut; The “Alpha and Omega” Of Haitian Literature: Baron de Vastey and the U.s. Audience of Haitian Political Writing. Comparative Literature 1 March 2012; 64 (1): 49–72. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-1539208
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