Document Type


Publication Date



This essay explores the history of Lydia Bailey, the only US studio-made film to depict the Haitian Revolutionary period. It asks why, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, such an unlikely project might have seemed commercially promising enough to justify a significant production budget. The essay draws on private studio memos as well as public press discussions to shed light on the high stakes in debates over racial representation and colonialism/decolonization in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and to illuminate everyday assumptions of white supremacy as these shaped the making of the film and its promotion. Production files and a range of industry, daily and weekly mainstream white press and Black newspapers document the racial divide shaping the film’s production and reception. The story of the making and forgetting of Lydia Bailey reveals the process by which transnational Black history and Black struggle became more public and legible in the wake of WWII anti-fascism and internationalism, and then was driven back off stage by the political mobilization of Cold War anti-Communism.


Submitted version of article published in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.

Judith E. Smith (2021) Hollywood imagines revolutionary Haiti: the forgotten film Lydia Bailey (1952), Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 41:4, 759-787, DOI: 10.1080/01439685.2021.1901994



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.