From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Freemen Community on Samaná Bay (Dominican Republic)

(born: 1824) 

In 1824 an isolated community of about 200 freemen (or escaped enslaved) from Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Kentucky was established on Samaná Bay as a colony of the Haitian Republic. The move to the settlement was under the direction of Bishop Richard Allen of the AME Church in Philadelphia, PA. It has also been written that Haitian President Jean Pierre Boyer conspired with abolitionists in Pennsylvania to finance the passage and resettlement of the former enslaved as a strategic move to strengthen his rule.

Boyer and his forces had overthrown the previous government of Spanish Haiti in 1822, and slavery had again been abolished. A series of rebellions led to  Boyer being overthrown in 1843. Haiti became independent in 1844.

The Dominican Republic also became independent from Haiti in 1844, its territory including Samaná Bay and its American inhabitants. There would be several attempts by Haiti to retake the Dominican Republic, so the Dominican government sought protection by attempting to become annexed to either Spain or the United States.

During the American Civil War, plans by the Lincoln Administration to purchase the country fell through. In 1874, Samaná Bay and the inlet were purchased by an American company backed by the U.S. government. Samaná was redeveloped into what later became an independent country. The ownership lasted for one year; the company overextended its finances and was not able to pay the annual rent owed to the U.S. government, so the treaty was revoked.

At various points throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the U.S. government pursued the idea of annexing the Dominican Republic and leasing Samaná Bay for use as a naval station, but Congress vetoed the plans. The U.S. did not establish a presence in the Caribbean until the Spanish-American War.  

Some of the Americans in Samaná Bay built churches and schools and made a handsome living from shipbuilding, trading with the United States, and growing cocoa. They sent their children back to the U.S. for higher education. A YouTube video, "Freed Slave Emigrants to Samaná," with historian Martha Willmore, presents a discussion of the history of the Americans who arrived on Samaná Bay (interview by Dr. Dana Minaya of the Samana College Research Center).

For more see "Purchase of Samaná Bay, New York Observer and Chronicle, 1/30/1873, p. 38; A. Modley, "Paradise found - old and new," Crisis, January 1975, pp. 30-31; American Negro Songs, by J. W. Works; Central and South America, by A. H. Keane and C. R. Markham [available full-text at Google Books]; and Adventure Guide to the Dominican Republic, by H. S. Pariser. See also the website.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Freemen Community on Samaná Bay (Dominican Republic),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 23, 2024,

Last modified: 2022-05-30 17:37:41