I have been so stricken by the recent tragedy in Haiti, that I thought it would only be fit to talk about Haiti, and celebrate the first Black independent nation in the western hemisphere, and in the world. What better way than to salute Toussaint Louverture, the great black general who defeated Napoleon’s army, and French, British, and Spaniards? What better way than to salute the genius of Toussaint! Think about this: Napoleon, one of the greatest generals that ever lived, being beaten by a… self-educated slave with no military training… being driven off the shores of Haiti by Toussaint who then led his country to independence.
Well, Toussaint Louverture was a military genius like none other. He was actually born a slave and worked on a plantation, and then earned his freedom. By the time the slave rebellion started, he did not want to join in at first; but later on joined the slave rebellion only to realize that their leaders were inept and would compromise with the white farmers. Toussaint rose through the ranks and became the undisputed leader of the rebellion. He also had two great generals under him: Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe, who would both later become presidents of Haiti.
Toussaint’s struggle was a struggle for freedom, equal rights, and justice for all. Having earned his freedom before, he knew what it meant to be free, and drafted a constitution. After sending out the French in Saint-Domingue (present day Haiti) in 1799, he turned to spanish Santo Domingo where slavery was still in effect, and took control of the entire island defeating the spaniards, and freeing the slaves. He then started to draft a constitution in 1801 for the entire island of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic). The French, the Spanish, and even the Americans hated Toussaint, because of his effect on people. Imagine this: a Black leader freeing slaves, a nation where slaves had taken control of their destiny did not sit well with Americans who still owned slaves and could not bear such a news. By 1803, Napoleon ready to surrender Haiti, decided to meet with Toussaint on a peace deal; but the French tricked Toussaint, and when Toussaint came to the rendez-vous, he was arrested and taken to France by ship where he was put in the coldest prison of France. Toussaint, a tropic guy, died of cold and starvation in this prison.
The most important and beautiful about the story of Toussaint and Haiti, is that this was the first time a people rose up, an enslaved people rebelled and succeeded in getting their freedom, and in founding a country…. they were able to defeat the establishment. This is why Haiti is a treasure to the world. Haiti represents a people fighting for their rights, for their freedom, and for their voice to be heard. In the wake of this devastating earthquake, I know the Haitian people will rise from ashes just like the phoenix!
Please watch this documentary about “Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian revolution” from ITVS. To learn more, you can read about Toussaint on Wikipedia, A biography of Toussaint by J.R. Beard, Toussaint Louverture Historical Society, and check out the website Filmsdocumentaires.com which has a snippet of a documentary on Toussaint.