The Radio Haiti Records are the fruit of the work of Haitian dissident and “agronomist” Jean Dominique, and chronicle the station’s role in fighting for the people of Haiti. Jean Dominique was assassinated on April 3, 2000. His widow and Radio Haiti partner, former UN Spokesperson Michele Montas, brought the Radio Haiti Records to the Rubenstein Library last year, and while it has its challenges – its primary language is Haitian Kreyol and its 3,420 analog tape recordings have spent the better of their lives in a mold-inducing tropical climate – it is that rare collection where value (historical, cultural, human) outweighs almost any conceivable obstacle to making it accessible.
To begin the process of digitizing the recordings, as a first step to transcription and translation, we have created a small pilot project that tests our capabilities and captures the kinds of numbers we need to evaluate the costs associated with preserving Radio Haiti in the long term. We made the video below to demonstrate some of the basic considerations in approaching the preservation of this important collection. For more information, check out the Preservation Underground blog, where Head of Conservation Beth Doyle discusses the process we used to clean the mold off the tapes.
Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist
The Rubenstein Library has acquired a very rare manuscript copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence. This declaration by the army of black Haitians, of liberty from French colonial rule or death, made on 1 January 1804, carries strong echoes of the rhetoric of the American Revolution some thirty years earlier. It established the first black republic in the world, and is the first declaration of independence written after the American version of 1776.
The scribal copy of the Declaration now at the Rubenstein was found in the papers of Jean Baptiste Pierre Aime Colheux de Longpré, a French colonizer of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) who fled the country during its revolution and settled in New Orleans. The copy was very likely made shortly after the Declaration took effect on 1 January, 1804. It is one of only a few contemporary or near-contemporary manuscript copies known to scholars, joining copies at the British Library, the French National Archives, and the National Library of Jamaica.
A celebration of the Haitian Declaration of Independence will be held on 21 January at the John Hope Franklin Center for International and Interdisciplinary Studies, in collaboration with faculty and staff from Duke’s Haiti Lab. A round table of scholars of the Haitian Declaration, including Duke Professors Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson, Assistant Prof. (and Duke PhD) Julia Gaffield of Georgia State University, and Prof. Richard Rabinowitz and Lynda Kaplan of the American History Workshop, will discuss its history and creation. The Rubenstein Library’s manuscript copy of the Declaration will be on display in the Center’s gallery. Haitian specialties will be served.
We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012. Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week. All of these amazing resources are available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!
Kitab Dala’il al-Khairat wa Shawariq al-Anwar fi Dhikr al-Salah ‘ala al-Nabi al-Mukhtar [Guidebook of Benefits and Illuminations of Prayers to the Chosen Prophet]. The Dala’il al-Khairat of al-Jazuli (Al-Jazuli, Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad ibn Sulaymana, d. 1465) is one of the most popular devotional works in Islam, comprising a cycle of prayers to the prophet Muhammad. The manuscript now at Duke is Arabic written in the Maghrebi script, and likely was created in North Africa in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. The manuscript also contains other prayers and devotional texts. Its calligraphy and ornamentation are beautiful witnesses to a text of surpassing importance in the Muslim faith.
National Coalition for Haitian Rights Records: This organization is dedicated to furthering the civil and international human rights of the Haitian community in the US and helping influence US policy over Haiti to support human rights. In over 146 linear feet of material, the records document the activity of the Coalition from 1981 to 2003. This adds to a growing collection of material in the Human Rights Archive related to human rights in Haiti; see the Human Rights Archive’s LibGuide for more information on other collections related to human rights in Latin America.
We recently completed processing the Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ) Records. Formerly the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), AIJ is a not-for profit legal organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants and refugees, including those being held at various detention centers, such as Guantanamo, Krome and Turner Guilford Knight. The majority of the material in this collection deals with the Haitian refugee population in Florida. Two aspects of this collection struck me. First, while this collection contains material that addresses the Haitian refugee crises from a broader political and historical perspective, it is notable for the quantity of material it contains that focuses on the stories and testimonies of individual refugees, in their own words, in documents such as affidavits and correspondence.
The second aspect of this collection that struck me as particularly interesting is the amount of material it contains on children – child refugees and detainees, children seeking asylum, children stranded in Haiti, and especially unaccompanied minors. As I became more familiar with this collection, I became especially interested in the detained child as both a fact and an idea. Sifting through accounts both by and about children of their emotional, mental, and physical experiences in detention, I began to wonder how the search for asylum and subsequent detention is conceived of by children.
The reason why this subject fascinated me is because of the strong incongruity in the idea of the child, on the one hand, and the idea of imprisonment of any kind, on the other, an incongruity that suggested to me that accounts of children in detention might uniquely illuminate how we think about detention and refuge. We often associate children with places of refuge, with a powerful need for and unique faculty to find or construct places of refuge. One example of this faculty is play. As I looked through photographs of and read testimony by children detained at Guantanamo, I began to wonder what place “play” has in detention, in homelessness, and in lack of refuge.
The subset of documents about which I am writing are dated from around the early and mid-1990s, during and following the campaign of terror against Aristide supporters. One must bear in mind that the majority of Haitian refugees held at Guantanamo at this time were forcibly returned to Haiti where their lives were imperiled (5,000 Aristide supporters were estimated to be killed in 1993). In fact, many of the children detained at Guantanamo were unaccompanied for precisely this reason – their parents or caretakers had been killed in Haiti during this period. As the AIJ Records reveal, many of these children, upon repatriation, were thus compelled to eke out a living on the streets.
So, how does the child reconfigure the way we conceive of detention? Three photographs from the Photographic Materials Series caught my attention. After I selected them, I asked myself why I had been drawn to them, and I realized that in each, a child or children were holding some kind of object – a fish, makeshift drums, a guitar.
I considered these photographs against the written testimony about and by children detained at Guantanamo (information packets, emergency action requests related to medical conditions, correspondence, affidavits, reports, etc.). The written documentation described abuses, including rape, that were committed at Guantanamo against women and children. Child detainees, not surprisingly, wrote of their desperation and depression (their own words), and observers of these children offered similar accounts. Yet, these children not only subsist at Guantanamo but also, as the photographs above communicate, find ways to play. It is not difficult to perceive a form of resistance in their play, in their insistence upon occupying places that we cannot envision as inhabitable. I was likewise captivated by the photographs in which children are holding objects because they seem to me to manifest the construction of places of refuge within displacement and dispossession. The subjects in these photographs seek asylum in the objects themselves. There is something about gripping an object, possessing that object, that also solidifies the reality of oneself – and this in a place in which that very reality is relentlessly objected to – in abuse, obscurity, neglect, remaining unheard.
Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University