Known to his contemporaries as “The Black Napoleon,” Toussaint L’Ouverture was a former slave who rose to become the leader of the only successful slave revolt in modern history, the Haitian Revolution.
What it is Toussaint L’Ouverture most known for?
The events of August 22, 1791, the “Night of Fire” in which slaves revolted by setting fire to plantation houses and fields and killing whites, convinced the 48-year-old L’Ouverture that he should join the growing insurgency.
What was the “Night of Fire?”
Inspired by French Revolutionary ideology and angered by generations of abuse at the hands of white planters, the initial slave uprising was quelled within several days, but ongoing fighting between the slaves, free blacks, and planters continued. Although he was free, L’Ouverture joined the slave insurgency and quickly developed a reputation: first as a capable soldier and then as military secretary. When the insurgency’s leadership chose to ally itself with Spain against France, L’Ouverture followed. Threatened by Spain’s and Britain’s attempts to control the island, the French National Convention acted to preserve its colonial rule in 1794 by securing the loyalty of the black population; France granted citizenship rights and freedom to all blacks within the empire.
How did the French Revolution inspire Toussaint L’Ouverture and the slave insurgency?
What did the French National Convention grant in 1794? Why do you think they did this?
Following France’s decision to emancipate (free) the Haitian slaves, L’Ouverture allied with France against Spain, and from 1794 to 1802, he was the dominant political and military leader in the French colony. Operating under the self-assumed title of General-in-Chief of the Army, L’Ouverture led the French in ousting the British and then in capturing the Spanish-controlled half of the island. By 1801, although Saint Dominque remained ostensibly a French colony, L’Ouverture was ruling it as an independent state. He drafted a constitution in which he reiterated the 1794 abolition of slavery and appointed himself governor for “the rest of his glorious life.”
What title did Toussaint L’Ouverture take on in the rebellion against France?
What did he write in the new Haitian constitution?
L’Ouverture’s actions eventually aroused the ire of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1802, Napoleon dispatched his brother-in-law, Charles Leclerc, to capture L’Ouverture and return the island to slavery under French control. Captured and imprisoned at Fort de Joux in France, L’Ouverture died of pneumonia on April 7, 1803. Independence for Saint Dominque would follow one year later under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of L’Ouverture’s generals. Nevertheless, Toussaint L’Ouverture is considered the father of Haitian independence for his role in the slave revolt, his military successes, ruling Haiti as an independent state, and his creation of a Haitian constitution that upheld the 1794 ban on slavery.
How does Haiti eventually gain independence?
Imagine that you have to give the eulogy at Toussaint’s funeral. Write out what you would say about Toussaint’s legacy below: