Rockefeller Archive Center

Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports are created by recipients of research travel stipends and by many others who have conducted research at the RAC. The reports demonstrate the breadth of the RAC's archival holdings, particularly in the study of philanthropy and its effects. Read more about the history of philanthropy at Also, see the RAC Bibliography of Scholarship, a comprehensive online database of publications citing RAC archival collections.
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The Role of the Rockefeller Foundation in the Origins of Treponematosis Control in Haiti, 1915-1927

January 20, 2021

There has been a surge of interest in the history of colonial public health of Haiti. This body of recent scholarship has shed light on the general construction of US colonial public health, humanitarianism during the US occupation, yaws/treponematosis control campaigns, and hegemony. While it is generally understood that the treatment of treponematosis played an outsized role in the performance of enlightened US medical modernity, what is less well described is how treponematosis became the central target of US and Rockefeller Foundation efforts to solidify the legitimacy of the US colonial state. This report will argue that there existed a wide variety of infectious diseases, some of which the US occupation believed that they could treat or eradicate, including smallpox, intestinal protozoa, dysentery, malaria, hookworm disease, and treponematosis. As a result of several material and pragmatic concerns, treponematosis became the central focus of the US occupation. With regard to the prioritization of treponematosis, the operations of the Public Health Service in Haiti can be divided into at least two periods, the first spanning from the formation of the Public Health Service in 1919 to the initiation in 1924 of the General Disease and Sanitary Survey of Haiti. The second period spans from 1925, at the end of the Survey of Haiti, to the beginning of 1930, when the Public Health Service began to be dismantled and the US influence began to wane. The first period had a more general concern with public health in Haiti, while the second period became acutely focused on eradication and treatment of treponematosis. Understanding how treponematosis came to be a priority requires understanding its social significance for both the US occupation and the Haitians communities afflicted by it. This paper will argue that treponematosis had widespread symbolic significance within Haiti. Together with its relative ease of treatment, diagnosis, and evidence of success, this disease was selected by the US occupation for eradication because it was believed that it would most clearly demonstrate the superiority of US biomedicine and culture.

The Role of International Aid in Creating Ties Between Haiti and The United States, 1934-1957

January 1, 2003

A one-month research visit at the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC) allowed me to examine records which document how the association of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF) and Nelson A. Rockefeller (NAR) with development projects in Haiti contributed to the process of Haitians identifying the United States, its citizens and institutions as viable resources for achieving both national and personal development goals. Records from the medical and humanities divisions of the RF, educational and economic development activities of NAR as Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, and general correspondence between Haitians, NAR's office, and RF officers provide supporting evidence for a dissertation on how the study of international aid practices can teach us about the linkages between international relations and transnational behavior.

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