Beyond the Narrative: An Intertextual Reading of Harry Franck’s Travel Writing on Haiti, 1919-1938

Steven Driever

Abstract


Abstract.  In response to popular demand for tropical island travelogues, The Century Company, a prominent New York City publisher, sent its star travel writer, Harry Franck, to the West Indies in 1919 to write a book and at least eight magazine articles. Roaming Through the West Indies was released in the fall of 1920, after selected chapters had been abridged and serialized in The Century Magazine. The book transformed Franck’s reputation from that of a raconteur of entertaining travel tales to that of a contemporary critic of the United States’ occupation of Haiti, guerilla warfare of so-called cacos, and the counterinsurgency campaign led by the US Marine Corps that effected the dramatic killing of cacos leader Charlemagne Péralte. I explore connections between Franck’s charged criticisms of the occupation and civil administration of Haiti and the fiery rhetoric of National Association for the Advancements of Colored People (NAACP) officers James Weldon Johnson and Herbert Seligmann. The three men played decisive roles in the national debate over the morality of intervention by a United States experiencing its worst race relations in many years. The article closes with a discussion of the repurposing of travel writing in the 1930s as increased tourism to the West Indies demanded texts that showed readers how to comfortably experience the exotic. Franck’s chapter on Haiti in Sky Roaming Above Two Continents, published in 1938, is compared to his earlier representation of the country.


Keywords


Harry Franck; travel writing; United States; Marine Corps; Haiti; race

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