Toussaint L’Ouverture or Black Napoleon as he is fondly called is the famous military commander whose talent and skills threatened the European invaders.
He particularly spearheaded the Haitian revolution in the late 18th century.
During the European conquest of Africa, they ruled the continent however but not without any form of challenge or counter attacks.
The Black Napoleon was among the people who fought for black freedom and emancipation. He vehemently resisted the Saxons – a confederation of Germanic tribes on the North German Plain.
Toussaint’s early life is not well documented but he is believed to have been born May 20, 1743, to Gaou Guinou, son of the king of Allada, a West African kingdom, his family was sold into slavery and sent to the Caribbean.
Toussaint was fortunate to be bought by enlightened masters who allowed him to learn to read and write. He read the classics and the Enlightenment political philosophers, who were his greatest influencers. He grew up to become an expert in medicinal plants and horsemanship.
His master recognised this and promoted him to the post of the plantation’s chief steward. It is said that he was given his freedom in 1776, the same year the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.
After his freedom, Toussaint continued to work for his former owner until August 1791 when a sudden slave revolt began in the northern province and soon spread to encompass thousands of slaves across the colony.
Toussaint initially acted unconcerned but the following weeks saw the revolts becoming more intense that he had to help his former master escape and then joined the black forces who were burning plantations and killing many Europeans and mulattoes (people of mixed African and European ancestry). He soon discovered the unskillfulness of the rebel leaders and scorned their willingness to compromise with European radicals.
He then formed an army of his own and trained them in the skills of guerrilla warfare. In 1793, the black commanders joined the Spaniards of Santo Domingo, when France and Spain went to war.
Toussaint demonstrated extraordinary military ability and attracted such renowned warriors as his nephew Moïse and two future monarchs of Haiti, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henry Christophe. his victories in the north, together with mulatto successes in the south and British occupation of the coasts, brought the French close to disaster.
Gallantly he fought for freedom, employing every positive tactic to achieve it. By 1795, he had made significant successes in the Haitian fight for freedom.
Toussaint was able to put up strong resistance for several months but his coalition eventually began to collapse as most Europeans and mulattos living on the island sided with the French and with time even his best generals, Henri Christophe and Dessalines followed suit. In June 1802, under the pretence of discussing peace, French General Jean-Baptiste Brunet sent a letter to Toussaint inviting him to his quarters.
There Toussaint was arrested and sent to Fort-de-Joux in the Jura Mountains of France where he was terribly interrogated, he eventually died of pneumonia and starvation on April 7, 1803.
Black Napoleon is remembered for being a strategist, visionary, formidable intellectual and warrior with keen political acumen; he was a disciplinarian to the core.
He was a man of valour; he did a lot in his reign to fix the economy and security of the people. He was a staunch Roman Catholic who detested slavery and gave the fight for the Haitian freedom all of himself.
In his relations with his rivals, he was smartly discrete about his directions and intentions. Just like Mandela did in South Africa, Touissant preached reconciliation and believed that African-born blacks had to tolerate and learn from Europeans and mulattoes in the colony.
Black Napoleon’s faith in the eradication of racial tensions and slavery, as well as his firm foundation in the training of his Guerrilla troop, helped the colony to resist attempts of French invasions even after his death in 1803. He was betrayed by his political comrades and handed over to the French government. He died in Prison.
Wife, Children, Family
Toussaint L’Ouverture was married to Suzanne Simone Baptiste and the couple had three children together: Placide, Isaac, and Saint-Jean. He was said to have several other children he had fathered with different women in his youth but that many of them predeceased him.
Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Quotes
“Unite; for combination is stronger than witchcraft”
“I was born a slave, but nature gave me a soul of a free man”
“It is easy to cut down the tree of liberty, but not so easy to restore it back to life”
“I took up arms for the freedom of my colour. It is our own – we will defend it or perish”
“We are free today because we are stronger; we will be slaves again when the government become the stronger”.
“Whatever defamation of character my enemies are spreading about me, I do not feel the need to justify myself toward them. While discretion obliges me to remain silent, my duty compels me to prevent them from doing any more harm.”
“In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of the black liberty in St-Domingue-it will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.”
By the time Toussaint L’Ouverture was 20, he could speak three languages—French, Creole, and Latin.
His favourite reading was about Julius Ceasar and Alexander the Great
He set up the first legal code for Haiti and devised the first universal school system for Black people.