Examining the West Indies Federation during the twentieth century against the backdrop of the US occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 shows the complex roots of decolonization and helps us understand the occupation as a foundational event for the twentieth-century Caribbean imaginary, much as the Haitian Revolution was for the nineteenth. The occupation is usually considered only in relation to its impacts in Haiti and the United States, but Haiti’s symbolic significance meant that its occupation shaped the perspectives of Caribbean people throughout the region. Major thinkers of federation, particularly Richard B. Moore and George Padmore, developed their political perspectives through responses to the occupation. We can thus see the questioning of nation-state independence and the critique of neocolonialism (as a form of US economic imperialism allied with elites in the neocolony) emerge from the lessons of Haiti’s occupation.

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