Toussaint Louverture

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François-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture About this sound pronunciation , also Toussaint Bréda, Toussaint-L'Ouverture (May 20, 1743 – April 6, 1803) was the leader of the Haitian Revolution. Born in Saint-Domingue, Toussaint led enslaved blacks in a long struggle for independence over French colonizers, abolished slavery, and secured "native" control over the colony, Haiti. In 1797 while nominally governor of the colony, he expelled the French commissioner Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, as well as the British armies, invaded Santo Domingo to free the slaves there, and wrote a Constitution naming himself governor-for-life that established a new polity for the colony.[1]


Early life and career

Toussaint was born in Bréda, Haiti to enslaved parents. His paternal grandfather, Gaou Guinou was a chief from Arrada in modern-day Benin.[2] Tradition says that he was driver and horse trainer on the plantation. His master freed him at age 33, when Toussaint married Suzanne.[3] He was a fervent Catholic, and a member of high degree of the Masonic Lodge of Saint-Domingue.[4][5] In 1790 slaves in the Plaine du Flowera rose in rebellion. Different forces coalesced under different leaders. Toussaint served with other leaders and rose in responsibility. On 4 April 1792, the French Legislative Assembly extended full rights of citizenship to free people of color or mulattoes (gens de couleur libres) and free blacks. In Saint-Domingue, this policy was resisted by many white colonists, and France sent three Commissioners to enforce it. Among them Léger-Félicité Sonthonax was the most radical, creating a bureaucracy of mulattoes at Le Cap in the North. After the execution of Louis XVI in early 1793, France went to war against Great Britain and Spain. As unrest and racial war[citation needed] continued to disrupt Saint-Domingue's institutions, Toussaint joined the Spanish army of Santo Domingo to find a way to end slavery. In August Sonthonax proclaimed emancipation for slaves in the north, where Toussaint and his allies were fighting; his fellow commissioners announced emancipation of slaves in the West and South, but an invasion by British troops in September overshadowed these changes. In 1793 Toussaint adopted as a surname his nickname of L'Ouverture and used it as his full signature from then on.

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