Matthew Randolph | Samaná under Haitian Unification: British Missionaries, Transnational Religious Ties, and Dominican Identity, 1825–1844

This is an Archive of a Past Event

From 1822–1844, the second president of Haiti, Jean-Pierre Boyer, annexed the Spanish-speaking side of the island and ruled as a great unifier who pursued a transnational approach to nation-building. Unified Haiti offered sanctuary for the greater African diaspora in an Atlantic World still unevenly ensnared by slavery and colonialism. Boyer thus leveraged proto-Pan-Africanist rhetoric to make the first Black republic appealing to African Americans. 

This year, 2024, marks the bicentennial year of these first waves of U.S. migration to both sides of the island. The paper Randolph submits to the Slavery and Freedom workshop offers an assessment of British missionaries' interactions with the African American migrants in the Samaná peninsula in the far-east of the island throughout the 1830s (modern day Dominican Republic). This is the second chapter of his dissertation, building on an initial first chapter that sought to reconstruct the recruitment and migration processes of African Americans who would make the Caribbean their new home in the 1820s. In this second chapter, he moves the story along to integrate Samaná into the wider story of Haitian Unification (1822–1844) while taking seriously the confluence of African American migrants and British missionaries in this region. The conversion efforts of ecclesiastic emissaries were refracted through the gendered labor of Black women, who served as interlocutors for British religious and anti-slavery culture. 

For twenty years, Boyer’s unification project, open to new citizens and interlocutors from the wider Atlantic World, turned the island into an ethnic melting pot: a project of an island of freedom that included nodes in North America as well as religious and cultural influences from Europe. The whole unified island was an experiment in multicultural republicanism. Samaná, far from being peripheral to these processes, was very much at the center of this story. While the peninsula may have been far from urban loci of power on the island, this maritime space was interwoven with larger events, as people and religious practices flowed in and out from far-flung locales.


About the Speaker

Matt Randolph is a History PhD candidate at Stanford University in the Transnational, Global, and International (TIG) field with a focus on the intellectual, political, and cultural history of the African Diaspora in the Atlantic World. His dissertation explores the history of the United States and the Caribbean in the nineteenth century through the migrations, encounters, and exchanges that connected African American, Haitian, and Dominican intellectuals, diplomats, and everyday people.

At Stanford, Matt has served as a graduate coordinator for the Black Studies Collective and as a graduate fellow for the Program in African and African American Studies. He has also founded and led two reading groups at Stanford: one for Caribbean Studies and another for the history and legacy of the Black Panther Party.

Outside of academia, Matt has engaged in public history projects in the Bay Area and beyond, including volunteer work for the African American Museum and Library at Oakland, the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, and his alma mater, Amherst College in Massachusetts.