May 20, 2016

On this day May 20th

 

On This Day, May 20,1743 Birthday of Haitian revolutionary Pierre-Dominique Touissant L'Overture.

There had been slave revolts before: in the Caribbean, in South America, and in North America. But none would be as fantastic as the Great Haitian Slave Revolt. In 1791 the small French island colony's a half-million African slaves set fire to plantations and killed all those in their path. Of all the rebels, none would be so remembered as a short, grey-haired African who in a few years turned rebellion into revolution: Francois Dominique Toussaint L'Overture. Though not a participant in the beginning fires, which marked the start of the revolt, he quickly became its greatest soldier. Joining the tattered rebel army, Touissant trained the disorganized Black slaves into hardened troops. Holding up his musket in defiance, he told Haitian slaves, "Here is your liberty!" He then took to the field as an ally of Spain against France then as an ally of France against England and Spain. Playing the competing European powers against each other, he outmaneuvered the best diplomats of his day.

A superb military general, Toussaint managed to defeat the English army causing over 40,000 casualties. He was even responsible for defeating the armies of that period's greatest conqueror, Napoleon Bonaparte. Tricked into accepting an invitation from a French General to discuss matters of state, Toussaint was captured by French forces. Napoleon, taking no chances, locked him in a medieval fortress high in the Jura Alps of the French-Swiss borders. Upon hearing of his capture Haiti once again erupted into revolt. In the name of Toussaint the cry was "War for war, crime for crime, atrocity for atrocity!" Led by Toussaint's successor, the military genius Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the Haitian soldiers defeated the French and gained independence for their island nation in November of 1803. Toussaint however would not live to see the day.

 

Eight months earlier, the short Black general who electrified the world, whose name was on the lips of everyone from the enslaved Blacks of America to the royalty of Europe, who would inspire men and women for generations to come, died alone in a dark, dank cell far from his African and Haitian sun. ---(excerpts taken from Lerone Bennet's, "Before of the Mayflower.")

 

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