Taking Haiti

Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940

By Mary A. Renda

432 pp., 6 x 9, 30 illus., 3 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4938-5
    Published: June 2001
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6218-6
    Published: July 2004
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7070-4
    Published: July 2004

Gender and American Culture

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Awards & distinctions

2002 John Hope Franklin Prize, American Studies Association

2002 Albert J. Beveridge Award, American Historical Association

2002 Stuart L. Bernath Prize, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations

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 Hurston.

Pathbreaking and provocative, Taking Haiti illuminates the complex interplay between culture and acts of violence in the making of the American empire.

About the Author

Mary A. Renda is associate professor of history and women's studies at Mount Holyoke College.
For more information about Mary A. Renda, visit the Author Page.


"[A] significant and exciting contribution to this growing interdisciplinary field. . . . Prodigiously researched and persuasively argued. . . . Without doubt, the research, analysis, and conclusions presented in this work will shape, enrich, and inspire scholarship in these and related fields for time to come."--Caribbean Studies

"A study of the cultural characteristics and consequences of the intervention rather than as a complete narrative of events. This innovative work is less about Haiti than about the United States. That focus allows Renda to provide new insights on the occupation. . . . One of the most important accomplishments of Taking Haiti is Renda's persuasive argument that the Haitian intervention occupies a pivotal place in the formation of twentieth-century American culture. A historical episode often treated as an oddity is inscribed here as central to an emerging national conversation about race, gender, and power."--Journal of American History

"[A] provocative and insightful interpretation of twentieth-century United States imperialism."--History

"[Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism] does an excellent job of establishing a cultural and historical context for Haiti and the United States before the intervention."--Eurospan

"Renda's examination of Haiti is a fine example of a second wave of scholarship that has emphasized cultural interaction, especially issues related to gender and race."--Choice

"Renda uses a wide collection of materials from diaries, memoirs, letters, books, plays, and the arts to produce an excellent cultural study of the development of American imperialism. Recommended for all libraries."--Library Journal