Tribute to African-Americans in Samana
Thanks to Cid Wilson, of Dominican American Round Table, who sent us the information for this brief on this important tribute that took place in Samana on Wednesday.
A group of Dominican-Americans traveled to Samana this week to honor and pay tribute to the descendants of the African-American community living in Samana, on the country’s northeastern coast.
In 1824, at least 6,000 African-Americans who were freed from slavery migrated from the United States to Samana, Dominican Republic. Today, it is estimated that 80% of the population in Samana is of African-American descent.
The event took place on Wednesday, 22 February in the city of Samana. Hostos Community College of the City University of New York, the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo and the Association of Dominican American Supervisors and Administrators (ADASA) organized the visit.
The trip was organized as a result of the US documentary film "Dominican Identity & Migration To Hispaniola," produced by Nestor Montilla, associate director of international programs for Hostos Community College and a board member of the Dominican American National Roundtable. Ana Garcia-Reyes, vice president of Hostos Community College, commissioned the film. Both attended the ceremony.
Also attending were Hugo Morales, CUNY trustee; Wilson Forshue, governor of Samana; Irma Nicasio, sociology professor from UASD; Adriano Espaillat, New York State Assemblyman from Washington Heights section of Manhattan; Jose Peralta, New York State assemblyman from Queens, NY; Cid Wilson, president of the Dominican-American National Roundtable (DANR) in Washington, D.C., Jeanne Mulgrave, Commissioner for the City of New York’s Department of Youth & Family Services; Robert Mercedes, president of ADASA, Carlos Sierra of the CUNY student senate; Fred Price, dean of public relations for Medgar Evers College.
The delegation honored Martha Willmore Kelly, Reverend Benito Jones of the AME Episcopal Church, Reverend Nemiah Willmore, and Franklyn Willmore for their leadership in preserving the culture of the African American community in Samana. An estimated 200 guests took part in the recognition ceremony. The timing of the event was significant as February is Black History Month as well as Dominican Heritage Month in the United States.
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It's very nice to know that the Dominican Republic open their borders to ex-slaves from the US for a better life and as they did the Jews in Sosua during WWII.
Caribbean reporter, John Collins writes to praise the event as "the diaspora bounce back!"
"Regardless of the motive this is very welcome attention to a long overlooked group," he writes. But also comments that unfortunately it overlooks many of the historical facts associated with the community. Apparently there is a doctoral thesis written by a Florida Atlantic University student on the community's origins. The PhD candidate got a Guggenheim grant & took a group of her students to Samana to trace the evolution of the group.
John recalls, off the tip of his head, that there were originally 67 families & all of their surnames could be traced through 11 or 12 generations from 1825 when they were brought there by the Haitian government at the time of the occupation! He said that old timers in the community he interviewed in 1974 told him how the Haitians "wanted to raise the color on the Dominican side by bringing in ex-slaves from Philadelphia."
He mentions that several thousand were brought in but only the Samana community survived and that the rest could not adjust to the tropics and fell victims to disease or were not farmers. He explains that a whole folk lore has developed regarding them. While he says they now number several thousand, only a few are knowledgable to speak about their history. His source at the time was an old English teacher called Copeland who has since died & with her the name disappeared because there were no males in the line.
Collins writes that those who came and their descendents were very religious Wesleyan Methodists who later became AME, when referring to all of the other communities around the DR. He has heard there were 11 or 12 settlements that have disappeared over the years.
He says that when he first met them they spoke early 19th century English with numerous religious expressions like "bless thee," etc.
Collins tells that his interviewee told him that the early members, while grateful to the Haitian occupation authorities for granting them the opportunity to make a new life in a new country, were shocked at the racist character of the Haitian military. For example, several told me that they cut off the white heads of statues in the churches! Collins comments that he couldn't help recall this when he sat in the cathedral in Port au Prince in 91 at Aristide's inauguration and saw that all of the statues including the baby Jesus were black! He mentions that it's a forgotten chapter in DR history & is largely overlooked. He hopes to return to Samana later this year & make a concerted effort to salvage some of this valuable information.
Meanwhile, "I'm glad to the Dominicanos in NY for resurrecting this valuable part of the mosaic."
Last edited by Dolores; 02-24-2006 at 07:22 PM.
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This is interesting. Now, what I wonder is why would they invite settlers from the US to raise the color of Dominicans, if there were so many Haitians already on the island. So there must have been other stronger motives.
Will be interesting to locate this doctoral thesis and get more insights into this. Probably John Collins will do some more interviewing.
What is a fact, though, is that as has occurred with all the many groups of immigrants that have made the DR their home, the new settlers were truly welcomed and blended in intermarrying with those who had come earlier, and the Philadelphia settlers made their definite mark on Samana.
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A guess would be not enough Haitians to fully populate both sides of the island.
Originally Posted by Dolores
Remember, the populations of either DR or Haiti were extremely low. For most of history under 1 million! In addition, in those times the only areas with significant populations in the DR was the vega real triangle (Santiago-San Francisco-La Vega area), and that area has historically been the most european in composition from any other area of the entire island. As if that was not enough, the east was virtually empty, since San Pedro and La Romana only came into existence as full fledge towns in the early 1900s due to American investment in Sugar estates and the south has never had a significant population, despite being a signifcant part of the country geographically speaking.
Tribute to the African American of Samana, Dom. Rep.
I am glad to see your responses about Feb. 22, 2006 Samana event to recognize the African American community.
As the producer of New York City University's Hostos Community College's study abroad documentary "Dominican Identity and Migrations to Hispaniola," I will also be glad to share with you more background information about the story of the African Americans and several other sizeable migratory groups that settled in Hispaniola.
Mr. Cid Wilson, the President of the Dominican American National Roundtable, saw the documentary at Hostos Community College in the Bronx , NY on Feb 16 this year and expressed interest in undertaking a Dominican identity tour throuhought the United States to feature the documentary everywhere to help broaden understanding about Dominican culture and the diversity of the Dominican people.
It will be an interesting opportunity to share thoughts with different audiences and discuss issues about the true identity of the Dominicans.
The documentary was produced for educational purpose only. It's not for sale and its viewing should be free and open to the general public.
One of its chapters about the Haitian Migration to the Dom. Rep. includes the testimonials of Solange Pierre, a Dominican women of Haitian descent who firmly believes both, Dominican and Haitian cultures, have salient common characteristics in music, religion, food and other aspects.
An elderly Dominican of Haitian descent reveals he lives in fear of being deported back to Haiti, although he wan't born in the Dominican Republic. In this respect, please consider excerpts of his remarks in Spanish (acentuacion omitida),
"Yo naci en eta tierra; no conoco otra bandera. Solamente conoco la bandera dominicana. He vito otras banderas, pero me siento ser dominicano".
"Si me agarran y me mandan pa Haiti, pa donde me van a manda?"
Mejor "que no metan a todito en un corral y no afusilen. Por que, pa donde no van a manda? Yo no se donde queda la frontera.
"Y un hombre de 75 años que lo dio todo...TODO por ete pai...TODO dede chiquitico con un saco al hombro, un pico, una azada, chapeando potreros, tirando caña con una carreta con sei bueye, vagoniando, carreteando entre el ingenio, haciendo de todo. Y hoy no pueden menopreciame y deci que me van a agarra y me van a tira como cuando lo bueye no pueden hace na y tirarme en un potrero".
More information forthcoming.
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Tribute to the African American community of Samana
Let us keep this thread on the topic of the freed slaves to Samana. What does modern day Haitian immigration have to do with it. This thread is about Samana's history, not modern day Haitian immigration topics. We are not talking about the Dominican identity here.
Let us keep this thread exclusively on the story of the freed slaves to Samana, not Haitian migration. If you want to discuss Haitian migration, as part of Dominican identity -- definitely they are part of our identity -- please start another thread.
There is a very interesting thesis out there on the subject of American migration to Samana by E. Valerie Smith who is on the faculty of social and behavioral sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University.
What we would like to get is a copy of that thesis. I understand the professor interviewed several of the Americans in Samana.
Last edited by Dolores; 03-01-2006 at 12:11 PM.
Boyer sent emisaries to Philadelphia where the American Colonization Society had a headquarters. Thes was a strongly anti-slavery group whose modus-operandi was to purchase slaves or rescue escaped slaves from the south and ship them back to Africa. These "returnees" in turn enslaved the local inhabitants and created the country of Liberia, whose capital, Monrovia, conmemorates President James Monroe.
The group that came down here was headed by pastor Peter Vanderhorst. I enterview his granddaughter in 1968--Miss Alice.
The Willmores, the Coplins, Hamiltons, Greens, and a flock more, were the survivors.
They spoke a variety of what is now identified as "Black English". In there homes, in 1968, an outsider like myself could not understand a word. If they wanted me to understand what they were saying they spoke more clearly.
Lack of funding cut short my studies, but there have been some studies on the English of Samaná..
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Who paid for their transportation to Samana? The American Colonization Society? When you talk about the Wilmores, Coplins, Hamiltons, Greens as survivors... what survival are you referring to? Not being sent back to Africa?