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1937 LIFE magazine on Haiti

One of the best things about writing a book is that you get to spend hours geeking out and stumbling across ridiculous things.

This LIFE magazine spread on Haiti from 1937 is like doing mushrooms in a time machine. There are pictures and stories from the then-recent Dominican massacre. (The DR and Haiti are described as the “only two sovereign Negro states in the world (save Libera).”) LIFE notes that the US created the army and dictator that carried out the massacre, but now the Americans are back to fix things, so no worries.

Then for … context? … we get a section called “Mulatto Haitian Society dances while Black Voodoo drums in the hills.” Among pictures of dancing and Silvio Cator (the guy Port-au-Prince’s soccer stadium is named for) drinking champagne with two women (“in the correct glasses”), there’s this insight: LIFE opines that “Mulattos rule the Negro republic of Haiti, get their clothes from New York and Paris, are heartily disliked by the black population and do a very poor job of ruling.” Nevermind that the US had just ended nineteen years of Jim Crow-infused occupation that helped create that ruling class. Or is that the point of the observation? Who knows. Hey, drinks for 10 cents!

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