Maurice Dartigue was born in 1903 in the town of Les Cayes in southwestern Haiti, the son of Régina (Duperval) and Jean Baptiste Dartigue, a prominent attorney, a one-time Governor of the South, and Minister of Agriculture and Public Works, which is what brought the family to Port-au-Prince. His father’s death forced Maurice to leave law school and transfer into education and agriculture. In 1931, he obtained a master’s degree in rural education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, where he met his future wife, the Hungarian-born Esther Reithoffer.
Over the next ten years in Haiti, he undertook extensive reforms in his field and eventually rose to the position of Director of Rural Education, while also serving as Director of the National School of Agriculture. In 1941, he was appointed Minister of Education, Agriculture and Labor and, during the course of the next four-and-a-half years, instituted in-depth reforms in urban education, at the primary, secondary, vocational, and university levels.
After a regime change in early 1946, Dartigue and family sought political asylum in the United States, where, for the next ten years, he worked in the Trusteeship Department of the United Nations in New York, becoming Senior Specialist in Education. He received from his alma mater, Teachers College, its Medal for Distinguished Service in the field of Education in 1954, the first year it was awarded.