“To Start Something to Help These People”: African American Women and the Occupation of Haiti, 1915–1934
- Journal of Haitian Studies
- University of California, Santa Barbara, Center for Black Studies Research
- Volume 21, Number 2, Fall 2015
- pp. 154-180
- Additional Information
In 1915, United States marines arrived in Haiti. Their landing signaled the beginning of an occupation that would cripple Haiti long after it ended in 1934. Scholars have offered compelling insights into African American opposition to the erosion of Haitian sovereignty. But this scholarship has prioritized the activism of Black men and male-dominated institutions while deemphasizing the complex reaction of Black women to the occupation.
This article highlights that overlooked reaction. It shows that some leading Black women continued to speak of the need to civilize Haiti. Others constructed organizations that emerged from imperialist discourses and sometimes relied upon imperialist structures. By demonstrating how middle-class and elite Black women navigated a transitional moment in Black intellectual history—adhering to traditional notions of racial uplift, civilization, and respectability even as they presented radical calls for Haitian liberation—my paper contributes to the literature on the US occupation of Haiti while establishing new lines of inquiry into Black political culture, women’s organizing, and US imperialism.