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PHOTO ESSAY

Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography

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François Dominique Toussaint Louverture

François Dominique Toussaint Louverture (1740s—1803) (Biblioteca de la Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias del Trabajo Universidad de Sevilla)

In 1804, Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) attained independence as the result of a successful revolution, which began in 1791 with an unprecedented uprising of black slaves, and ended with overturning both slavery and European colonial rule. Toussaint Louverture, an emancipated slave, led the Haitian Revolution until Napoleon's army captured and deported him to Fort de Joux in France, where he died in captivity in 1803. According to DCALAB author Madison Smart Bell (biographer of Toussaint Louverture and author of an acclaimed trilogy of novels inspired by the Haitian Revolution), Louverture "may stand as the most extraordinary individual of all time." Bell writes, "The epitome of a self-made man, Toussaint rose from slavery to defeat the great armies of Europe, including Napoleon's finest, on the field of battle and outwitted the great powers of Europe in the realm of politics. His catalytic role turned the slave rebellion of Saint-Domingue into a national revolution, laying the foundation for the first independent black state in the Western Hemisphere." In addition to Bell's publications, Louverture's role in the Haitian Revolution has been memorialized in plays (including one by C. L. R. James), an opera (by David Blake), songs (by Santana and Wyclef Jean), paintings (by Jacob Lawrence and Jean-Michel Basquiat), poems (by William Wordsworth), literature (by Ralph Ellison and Kenneth Roberts), and many historical and biographical texts.

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