IX. 1935 to 1956

Under President Sténio Vincent, Haiti invested in public works and education. Seven years into Vincent’s presidency, however, the Dominican president, Rafael Trujillo, ordered his military to massacre Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Vincent became very unpopular because in the end his response was to accept Trujillo’s reparations. In 1941, Vincent stepped down, and his ambassador to the United States, Elie Lescot, became president. Under Lescot, Haiti’s relationship with the United States strengthened, as Pan-Americanism spread in elite circles, Haiti declared war on Nazi Germany, and Lescot instituted SHADA, an initiative to produce latex needed by the United States in WWII. Lescot, however, was unable to contain radical new political movements. "Noiristes," who advocated black power, denounced Lescot’s leadership and policies. Feminists wanted a say in politics. And while Lescot invited several Marxists like Jacques Roumain to participate in his government, many Marxists, Roumain included, believed that Haiti needed a new social order that would favor the popular classes and not only the bourgeoisie. Lescot became even more unpopular when he allowed the Catholic Church to undertake an "anti-superstition" campaign against Vodou and SHADA proved underproductive.

When widespread protests pushed Lescot into exile in 1946, Haiti’s National Assembly elected Dumarsais Estimé to be president. Formerly a teacher and legislator, Estimé was more liberal than his predecessors. He let workers create unions. He invited noiristes to serve in his cabinet. He also stood up to American corporations, although his decision to nationalize Standard Fruit hurt Haiti’s banana industry. In 1949 and 1950, Haiti celebrated the bicentennial of the founding of Port-au-Prince with an international exposition. In 1950, however, the military ousted Estimé, when he tried to extend his presidency. Under Estimé’s successor, Colonel Paul Magloire, Haiti prospered thanks to unusually high coffee and sisal prices, as well as an increase in tourism revenue. At this time, American contractors were hired to oversee the construction of a massive dam, women received the vote, and leaders took interest in displaced children, who worked as servants with little hope of obtaining an education. When Hurricane Hazel struck in 1954, however, Magloire was unable to recover. Two years later he stepped down.