Vestiges of Black Internationalism

The Chasseurs Volontaires de Saint-Domingue in History and Memory

  • Nicole Willson

Abstract

The siege led by the Continental Army to reclaim Savannah from British forces in the fall of 1779 is remembered as one of the most disastrous battles of the American Revolutionary War. However, greater carnage was circumvented by a legion of (largely) free Black Chasseurs Volontaires recruited from the colony of Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). Their role proved strategically vital, and a monument erected in Savannah’s Franklin Square today pays homage to their contributions to the American project of independence. Indeed, the beguiling mythos of independence suffuses their historic legacy. Yet although their story is remembered in African American histories from the nineteenth century to the present, they are systematically occluded, marginalized, and overlooked by the colonialist archive. This article interrogates the violence of archival erasure and demands interdisciplinary, multimodal, and collaborative modes of recreating and rehabilitating lost African Atlantic histories.

Published
2020-11-05