Skip to main content

In the Shadow of Powers
Dantes Bellegarde in Haitian Social Thought

Author(s): Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

Out of a slave rebellion, Haiti was forged as an independent nation. This fact, in and of itself, should have been enough to perpetuate an image of Haitians as strong and agentive people. But leaders of countries on both sides of the Atlantic felt threatened by Haiti's beginnings and were intent on sapping it of resources. More than a century of various restrictions on trade, the imposition of crippling fines, and, eventually, a US occupation followed. Yet even as they suffered economically under these penalties, Haitians persisted, some of them becoming influential actors in the world of global politics.

Throughout much of the twentieth century and even to this day, there has been a dearth of scholarship on the intellectual and political contributions of Haitians. In the Shadow of Powers, first published in 1985, was a corrective to this oversight and remains a foundational text. Bellegarde-Smith traces the history of Haiti through the life and career of his grandfather Dantès Bellegarde, one of Haiti's influential diplomats and preeminent thinkers. As Brandon R. Byrd describes in his foreword to this new edition, "Bellegarde was driven by a subversive, racially inclusive vision of civilized progress. He believed in and continued to push for Haiti to establish an existence for itself, black people, and the colonized world independent of the considerable shadow cast by the world's military, economic, and industrial powers." Scholars and students who want to learn about the intellectual and political foundations of Haiti, its influence on other intellectuals worldwide, and its struggles against imperialism continue to find this to be an invaluable classic.

Biography of Author(s)

Patrick Bellegarde-Smith is a professor emeritus of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


  • "The great virtue of this study is that while the work concentrates on Dantès Bellegarde's thought and diplomatic career, it tells us a great deal about Haitian intellectual responses to the currents of political and economic liberalism as well as positivism in the nineteenth century, and to Marxism in the twentieth. . . . Bellegarde-Smith has written an appreciative and critical study of a distinguished Haitian. . . . The author, however, devotes most of this study to the development of Haitian social thought, and in doing so provides a welcome addition to the history of ideas in Haiti."
    —Review of ?In the Shadow of Powers' First Edition by Robert K. Lacerte, The Americas Journal
  • "In the Shadow of Powers is a timely inspiration for those who dare imagine or write histories disavowed, silenced, and thought unthinkable. It is a reminder of the power of black minds amid the devaluation of black life."
    —From the Foreword to the Second Edition, by Brandon R. Byrd, author of The Black Republic: African Americans, Haiti, and the Rise of Radical Black Internationalism (forthcoming)