The Americans of Samana (The English Teacher)
Max Becher & Andrea Robbins
Schwartz Art Collection, Harvard Business School
Schwartz Art Collection, Harvard Business School
Schwartz Art Collection, Harvard Business School

On Samaná peninsula, in the northeast of the Dominican Republic, live the descendants of freed African American slaves. The original group of about 34 families came in 1824 when the country had just been taken over by the newly independent black nation of Haiti. The scheme was initiated and financed by President Pierre Boyer of Haiti, with cooperation from the American Colonization Society (which had the dual motive of humanitarianism and the immediate expulsion of freed slaves.) Although this caribbean nation is Spanish-speaking, about 8000 of the descendants still speak an American English from 1824. African American names, manners, music and some recipes like Johnny (or Journey) cake have been preserved among the increasingly homogeneous Spanish-Dominican culture. Unfortunately, the old American English is also threatened by "tourist English," which is replacing many local languages not just in Samaná but throughout the world. Although a linguistic and religious isolation - the “Americanos” are protestant - has maintained customs and group identity, it has also undermined full inclusion in the developing economy. Also, a succession of dictatorial governments have outlawed English, sabotaged local development, and even destroyed the historic downtown of Santa Barbara, the provincial capital, in a deliberate fire. Once skilled, prosperous, and united, a large number of today's descendants are living in poverty. But, many still identify themselves as Americans and hope for repatriation, or at least some reunion with branches of their families in the United States. Wherever one culture has been incongruously grafted on another, Robbins and Becher have captured the results with ominously bright color photographs.
-Catalog excerpt


About the collection

Gerald Schwartz believes the presence of provocative art promotes creative thinking, remembering that "artistic presence was the only thing missing at HBS when I went there. I wanted to change that." In 1995, Gerry Schwartz and a team from HBS together began purchasing contemporary art for the HBS buildings most frequented by students. Inspired by the growing collection, a small group of MBA students founded the HBS Art Appreciation Society in 2001. It quickly grew into one of the largest student clubs on campus, sponsoring events in Boston area galleries and museums, as well as an annual weekend in Manhattan to meet artists, tour exhibitions, and attend theater. The club's co-presidents accompany Mr. Schwartz on his annual buying trip to purchase additional art for the School's collection.

About Gerald Schwartz, MBA '70

Gerald Schwartz, MBA ’70, is the Founder and CEO of Onex Corporation. He has been appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada and inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. Gerry Schwartz is Vice Chairman and member of the Executive Committee of Mount Sinai Hospital, a director of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, a trustee of The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Chairman of its Canadian Friends, and a governor of Junior Achievement of Metro Toronto. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Manitoba, a Masters in Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School, and several Doctor of Laws (Hon.) degrees. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Heather Reisman, founder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music.