Louverture, Toussaint. Leader of the Haitian Revolution – Born in 1743, the eldest of eight children born to slaves on the Bréda plantation in northern Haiti. Taught to read and write by his godfather, Toussaint rose quickly in rank among the household slaves, and became first his master’s coachman, and then steward of all livestock on the estate. In the early months of 1792 he joined the slave uprising and began to organise the rebellious slaves into a revolutionary army.
A skilful military leader, expert at guerrilla warfare, and able to instill loyalty, respect and admiration in his followers, he soon became the undisputed leader of the black forces. Over the years of bloody conflict, he maneouvered and manipulated the competing armies of French Republicans and Royalists, the Spanish and British, to achieve the goal of an independent republic free from slavery.
Toussaint himself was captured by the French in 1802 and was taken to France. He died in prison in April 1803, but as, William Wordsworth wrote in his poem, To Toussaint L’Ouverture, “Though fallen thyself, never to ride again, Live and take comfort. Thou has left behind Powers that will work for thee.” Under the command of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the united black and mulatto forces defeated the troops sent by Napoleon Bonaparte to reimpose slavery, and the revolution was completed when Haiti declared independence on January 1st 1804.
Recommended reading –The Black Jacobins – CLR James