This year, history Professor John Garrigus became the first scholar in UTA history to be selected for the prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program. He was one of 32 chosen from a pool of 273 nominations across the nation, and the only 2019 fellow selected from a Texas university.
“I found out in an email that I read at home,” Dr. Garrigus says. “It was one of those moments where you read an email and can’t quite believe what the words are saying.”
Garrigus has spent his career studying the pre-conditions of the Haitian Revolution, the world’s only successful slave uprising. “Haiti—or more accurately, Saint-Domingue—was the first place in the New World that actively tried to build a multicultural democracy,” he says. “All of us who live in a multicultural democracy should know about the men and women who worked to create a new kind of society 200 years ago.”
What past accomplishment is your proudest?
My first book, Before Haiti, which won the Gilbert Chinard Prize from the French Historical Society. I spent nearly 20 years trying to get that book published, but interest in the Haitian Revolution wasn’t there until 2004, when Haiti celebrated its bicentennial.
What are you excited about right now?
Learning about the livestock diseases that had such a huge impact on people and cultures in the 1700s but are not very well studied. Diseases like anthrax—which armies adapted for biological warfare in the 20th century because it kills people and animals so rapidly—could kill 70 to 80% of the cattle in a region and no one knew why. Planters accused their slaves of poisoning the animals because they seemed healthy until just before they died. When enslaved Africans tried to use their remedies, the planters thought those were poisons.
What are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to using geographic information systems (GIS) to map the plantations where these mysterious “poisonings” occurred. This was the same area where the Haitian Revolution first broke out 34 years later. Historians have never really explored the spatial history of these events—how people, animals, diseases, and ideas traveled through this region. I have a collection of digitized manuscript maps, and I’m planning on putting my GIS results on the web for other historians and interested folks.