Toussaint L’Ouverture is the Haitian revolutionary who defeated both the British and French armies
Toussaint L’Ouverture was the leader of history’s largest slave revolt – a dozen years of bloody, brutal fighting, starting in 1791, that transformed the French colony of St Domingue into the independent country of Haiti.
In this video, Professor Bayyinnah Bello gives a greater understanding of The Haitian Revolution and the part Toussaint L’Ouverture played in making it a reality.
Born into slavery on May 20, 1743 in the French colony of Saint Dominque, L’Ouverture was the eldest son of Gaou Guinon, an African prince who was captured by slavers. At a time when revisions to the French Code Noir (Black Code) legalised the harsh treatment of slaves as property, young L’ Overture instead inspired kindness from those in authority over him. His godfather, the priest Simon Baptiste, for example, taught him to read and write. Impressed by L’Ouverture, Bayon de Libertad, the manager of the Breda plantation on which L’Ouverture was born, allowed him unlimited access to his personal library.
By the time he was twenty, the well-read and tri-lingual L’Ouverture—he spoke French, Creole, and some Latin—had also gained a reputation as a skilled horseman and for his knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs. More importantly, L’Ouverture had secured his freedom from de Libertad even as he continued to manage his former owner’s household personnel and to act as his coachman.
By eliminating France as a major slaveholding power, Haitian independence cut the ground from under a prime argument in parliament against abolition – that if Britain abolished the slave trade, its rival, France, would take it over.
Haitian independence, in 1804 was very important for the rest of the Caribbean. It also demonstrated to enslaved people throughout the Caribbean that they could fight for freedom and win.