Andrew Walker is the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Caribbean Studies (Latin American Studies Program) at Wesleyan University. His research and teaching focus on political interconnections across the hispanophone, francophone, and creolophone Caribbean, especially Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
His book manuscript in progress, entitled “Strains of Unity,” explores the 1822-1844 Unification of Hispaniola, during which the former Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (today the Dominican Republic) was governed by the post-revolutionary republic of Haiti. The unification brought immediate emancipation and legal racial equality across the island, transforming the oldest slaveholding territory in the Americas into the newest departments of the most radical antislavery state in the world. The book reveals that the residents of Haitian Santo Domingo shaped the project of unification with Haiti from the ground up. On the one hand, members of Santo Domingo’s Afro-descended majority invoked Haitian law in order to make claims to land, protection from past or potential future enslavement, and equal status as full citizens of the republic. Yet the unification also cemented the rise of an islandwide propertyholding class of merchants, ranchers, military officers, and civil servants, who embraced an ill-fated state campaign to revive large-scale commercial agriculture on both sides of the island. In the end, internecine conflicts within eastern Haiti over access to land, labor, and resources played a far more important role than latent nationalist opposition to Haitian rule in precipitating the collapse of the unification and the creation of a new Dominican Republic in 1844.
His publications include essays in Slavery & Abolition and the Law and History Review. The first piece argues that the 1822 unification was the result of a decades-long antislavery revolution led by Santo Domingo’s majority of free people of African descent, Haitian leaders, and refugees from surrounding slaveholding jurisdictions. The second essay follows the 1816-1817 itinerary of a U.S. warship-turned Cuban slaving vessel, whose mostly-American crew staged a mutiny off of Cape Verde and then sailed on (without a captive cargo) to the antislavery republic of Haiti. In the remarkable case that followed, the jurists on the newly-constituted Haitian Admiralty Court produced a narrow ruling that laid the legal foundations for the Haitian state to actively suppress the Atlantic slave trade.
He is also working on two collaborative projects. The first considers the illegal enslavement and forced introduction into the United States of people who had long lived as free in the wake of the Haitian Revolution. The second explores the political lives of formerly enslaved women within the notarial archives and civil registries of unification-era Santo Domingo.
He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan (2018) and a B.A. in French Studies and History from Duke University (2011). At Wesleyan, he teaches courses on Caribbean history, Atlantic slavery in the nineteenth century, Afro-diasporic music in the Americas, and the Haitian Revolution.