The U.S. invasion of Haiti in July 1915 marked the start of a
military occupation that lasted for nineteen years--and fed an
American fascination with Haiti that flourished even longer.
Exploring the cultural dimensions of U.S. contact with Haiti during
the occupation and its aftermath, Mary Renda shows that what
Americans thought and wrote about Haiti during those years
contributed in crucial and unexpected ways to an emerging culture
of U.S. imperialism.
At the heart of this emerging culture, Renda argues, was American
paternalism, which saw Haitians as wards of the United States. She
explores the ways in which diverse Americans--including activists,
intellectuals, artists, missionaries, marines, and
politicians--responded to paternalist constructs, shaping new
versions of American culture along the way. Her analysis draws on a
rich record of U.S. discourses on Haiti, including the writings of
policymakers; the diaries, letters, songs, and memoirs of marines
stationed in Haiti; and literary works by such writers as Eugene
O'Neill, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale
Pathbreaking and provocative, Taking Haiti
complex interplay between culture and acts of violence in the
making of the American empire.