#toussaintlouverture #haiti #haitianrevolution #1804
The Slave Who Defeated Napoleon
Napoleon was one of the greatest generals who ever lived. But at the end of the 18th century a self-educated slave with no military training drove #Napoleon out of Haiti and led his country to independence.
The remarkable leader of this #slaverevolt was Toussaint Breda (later called Toussaint L'Ouverture, and sometimes the “black Napoleon”). Slave revolts from this time normally ended in executions and failure – this story is the exception.
It began in 1791 in the French colony of Saint Dominique (later Haiti). Though born a slave in #SaintDominique, Toussaint learned of #Africa from his father, who had been born a free man there. He learned that he was more than a slave, that he was a man with brains and dignity. He was fortunate in having a liberal master who had him trained as a house servant and allowed him to learn to read and write. Toussaint took full advantage of this, reading every book he could get his hands on. He particularly admired the writings of the French Enlightenmentphilosophers, who spoke of individual rights and equality.
In 1789 the French Revolution rocked France. The sugar plantations of Saint Dominique, though far away, would never be the same. Spurred on by such Enlightenment thinkers as #JeanJacquesRousseau, the early moderate revolutionaries considered seriously the question of slavery. Those moderate revolutionaries were not willing to end slavery but they did apply the "Rights of Man" to all Frenchmen, including free blacks and mulattoes (those of mixed race). Plantation owners in the colonies were furious and fought the measure. Finally the revolutionaries gave in and retracted the measure in 1791.
The news of this betrayal triggered mass slave revolts in Saint Dominique, and Toussaint became the leader of the slave rebellion. He became known as Toussaint L'Ouverture (the one who finds an opening) and brilliantly led his rag-tag slave army. He successfully fought the French (who helped by succumbing to yellow fever in large numbers) as well as invading Spanish and British.