PATERSON, NJ - On Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 6 pm, the Institute for Latino Studies andthe Common Roots Project will present “African American Settlement in the Dominican Republic,” an original documentary about 6,000 freed U.S. slaves who settled in Hispaniola and Samana in 1824.

The programs will be at the Paterson Library located at 250 Broadway Paterson, NJ 07501. Produced and directed by Nestor Montilla, Sr., the documentary depicts the saga of thousands of free African Americans who fled the UnitedStates in the first quarter of the 1800s in search for freedom and equal rights in Hispaniola, a Caribbean island shared today by the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The settlers had to show proof of their freedom in the US before boarding ships headed to Hispaniola.

Sign Up for E-News

“I am a fourth generation of the African Americans who settled in Samana in 1824,” said Martha Willmore, a Dominican of African American descent who is featured in the documentary. “They arrived in Samana in small groups with their families and belongings.”

“Almost two centuries have passed,” said Franklin Willmore, an African American descendant and member of the African Methodist Church. “We consider ourselves Dominicans.” The documentary highlights that, currently, over 80 percent of Samana’s population is of African American descent. It is estimated that there are over one half million Dominicans who are descendants of the African American settlers.

At present, there are still over 33 African American surnames in use in the Dominican Republic. “Dominicans are African Americans too,” said Nestor Montilla, Sr.P resident of the Common Roots Project. “Historically, African American settlers and their descendants have greatly contributed to the socio-economic and political development of the Dominican Republic. A noticeable contribution ignored by historians is that they fought for the independence of the Dominican Republic during the Restoration War.'' 

Fred Price, from Medgar Evers College of The City University of New York, will participate and share insights of his visits to Samana.

“This is an educational and cultural awareness program for our Paterson’s diverse communities,” said High school teacher and community leader Wilkin Santana, who partnered with the Institute for Latino Studies and the Common Roots Project to present the documentary in New Jersey.

Admission is free to the general public. For more information call at 973-345-3624 or visit www.thelatinoinstitute.org or write to thelatinoinstitute@gmail.com .