Over the past four years, my family and I have become planted in two distinct places:: Haiti and the Eastern Shore. I have written much about our adventures and shared stories of our plantedness among our friends in Haiti.
A few months ago, I came across a featured documentary from the Nabb Research Center at Salisbury University from photographer Phil Decker, who worked in the mid-1980s among migrant farmworkers in Salisbury. The documentary displays Phil’s photography work from this period with his vocal commentary driving the narrative.
Many of the Hatian migrants moved to the U.S. after Jean-Claude “Bébé Doc” Duvalier inherited the Haitian dictatorship from his father. Upon taking the throne, Duvalier began a reign of terror which caused havoc throughout Haiti by torturing and murdering thousands of Haitians… and many thousands more fled the political and economic upheaval in their homeland.
There is a long history between Haiti and the Delmarva Peninsula. The vegetable fields and chicken farms on the Eastern Shore of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia have long been a draw for Haitian migrants seeking work. This documentary by Phil Decker is a truly significant historical record of the emergence of the Haitian community in Salisbury during the 1980’s. Decker’s photos, in this video exhibit, document migrant farmworkers traveling to Salisbury from Florida, picking vegetables in the fields, and life in the labor camp near Salisbury.
I am grateful for Phil Decker’s dedication to sharing this history and generosity in sharing it through the Nabb Research Center.
The following… is a phenomenal invitation into a marginal community.
The following… is an overlooked people being given dignity by a storyteller.