Toussaint Louverture: Biography, Facts & Quotes

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  • 0:01 Toussaint Louverture
  • 0:46 Louverture as a Slave
  • 1:41 Louverture as a Revolutionary
  • 2:46 Louverture as a Leader
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Cummings

Erica teaches college Humanities, Literature, and Writing classes and has a Master's degree in Humanities.

Toussaint Louverture is a legendary figure in the history of Haiti and even that of the world. In this lesson, we'll trace Louverture's journey from a slave to a revolutionary to a political leader.

Toussaint Louverture

Toussaint Louverture came from humble beginnings, but he would later become a legend in Haitian history. In 1743, Louverture was born a slave in Saint-Domingue, which was a French colony in the Caribbean known for sugar and coffee production. Saint-Domingue would later become Haiti.

After Louverture was freed, he gained substantial military and political power on the island. He helped lead slave revolts in Haiti and would become its governor—the first black governor of any colony, in fact. Though he didn't live to see Haiti become truly independent, Haiti owes its independence in part to Louverture's legacy.

Louverture as a Slave

Toussaint Louverture was born a slave, and he served a humane master named Count de Breda, a sugar manufacturer. Louverture was also relatively educated—at least, compared to most other slaves—because both de Breda and his parents encouraged Louverture to read and write. He was also given religious instruction and became a Catholic.

De Breda freed Louverture around 1777. After that, Louverture married, had children, and even eventually owned land and slaves. He would later say, 'I was born a slave, but nature gave me a soul of a free man.' Indeed, once Louverture became a free man, he would help spread freedom throughout the entire island of Saint-Domingue. The society Louverture had grown up in would soon drastically change, and he would become a leader in its transformation.

Louverture as a Revolutionary

In 1789, the French Revolution began, and the revolutionary spirit soon took Saint-Domingue by storm as well. In 1791, slaves were swept up in the revolutionary spirit and began revolting against their masters, killing many of them, in what would become the first truly successful slave rebellion in the world, called the Haitian Revolution. Louverture, at first, wanted nothing to do with the revolution; he even helped de Breda, his former master, escape. But, he also sympathized with the slaves and eventually decided to help the revolution.

Louverture saw that the Haitian Revolution was in dire need of strong leadership. He joined the fight and taught the rebelling slaves guerrilla warfare tactics. He was a brilliant military and political leader, and he quickly gained both followers and power. In the mid-1790s, the French convinced Louverture that they would outlaw slavery, and the French even made Louverture a general. Fighting then subsided for a while, and Louverture helped restore Saint-Domingue to relative peace.

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