Red and Black in Haiti

Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change, 1934-1957

By Matthew J. Smith

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 illus., 1 table, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5937-7
    Published: May 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9415-6
    Published: May 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8359-9
    Published: May 2009

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Awards & distinctions

2010 Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Prize, Caribbean Studies Association

2009 Principal's Award for Best Book, University of the West Indies

In 1934 the republic of Haiti celebrated its 130th anniversary as an independent nation. In that year, too, another sort of Haitian independence occurred, as the United States ended nearly two decades of occupation. In the first comprehensive political history of postoccupation Haiti, Matthew Smith argues that the period from 1934 until the rise of dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier to the presidency in 1957 constituted modern Haiti's greatest moment of political promise.

Smith emphasizes the key role that radical groups, particularly Marxists and black nationalists, played in shaping contemporary Haitian history. These movements transformed Haiti's political culture, widened political discourse, and presented several ideological alternatives for the nation's future. They were doomed, however, by a combination of intense internal rivalries, pressures from both state authorities and the traditional elite class, and the harsh climate of U.S. anticommunism. Ultimately, the political activism of the era failed to set Haiti firmly on the path to a strong independent future.

About the Author

Matthew J. Smith is a lecturer in the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica.

For more information about Matthew J. Smith, visit the Author Page.


"Thorough, exhaustive and authoritative."--The Nation

"An important and carefully researched contribution to Haitian historiography. . . . This joins a very short list of the best studies we have of twentieth-century Haiti."--The Americas

"[An] excellent study. . . More thoroughly and compassionately than any earlier writer, Smith (Univ. of the West Indies) captures the various currents that flowed through the Vincent, Lescot, Estimé, and Magloire regimes. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"A notable achievement. It adds a new chapter to the history of Caribbean and Latin American radicalism while offering insights into a previously underexamined period in Haitian history. Scholars of the region and those interested in conflict and cooperation between ethnic and leftist movements will find much to appreciate in this jargon-free, well-researched political history."--American Historical Review

“Some books are statements in and of themselves. Smith’s book is one of them. . . . Demonstrates that Haiti is a ‘normal’ country with its own political dynamics and its own ideological development. . . . An indispensable study.”--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"[A] detailed and closely argued work of political history. . . . Painstakingly traces the different stages and shifting loyalties of post-occupation radical politics."--Caribbean Review of Books