"I was born a slave. But nature gave me the soul of a free man"

- Toussaint L'Overture

Famed across the Caribbean, Toussaint L’Ouverture, known as Napoleon Noir, lead the slave revolt in Haiti in the late 1700’s, eventually resulting in the freedom of the Haitian people.

In the 1700s, Saint Domingue was a colony of slaves

ruled by a small French minority on the island’s sugar and coffee plantations, on the western half of the island Hispaniola. The other side of the island was controlled by the Spanish. France had declared her own freedom in 1789, but the declaration of ‘Liberté, égalité and fraternité’ did not apply to her colonial outposts.

Inspired by the revolutions taking place across the Western World, rebellion broke out in the colony in the late 1700s. This was initially quelled by the French, but soon the rebels combined forces under a new powerful military commander – General Toussaint L’Ouverture, an ex-slave who took on the might of the French army.

"Brothers and friends, I am Toussaint L’Ouverture; perhaps my name has made itself known to you. I have undertaken vengeance. I want Liberty and Equality to reign in Saint Domingue. I am working to make that happen. Unite yourselves to us, brothers, and fight with us for the same cause. Your very humble and obedient servant, Toussaint L'Ouverture" – Declaration of Camp Durel, 1793

Toussaint L’Ouverture was a firm believer in the rights of man and joined the revolution soon after rebellion broke out. Growing through the ranks, he quickly became one of the key leaders of the slave revolt. Organising the fragmented freedom fighters into an ordered military campaign, he astounded the French with his cunning strategy and military prowess – so much so he became known as ‘Napoleon Noir’.

In 1801, Toussaint was betrayed to the French by one of his comrades and imprisoned in France. Before leaving he told his captors “In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint Domingue only the trunk of the tree of liberty; it will spring up again from the roots, for they are many and they are deep”. He died in prison in 1803, just months before Haiti declared itself a republic.

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