of Florida and the Caribbean"
François Dominique Toussaint LOuverture
The man known as the "Liberator of Haiti" was born around 1743 on a plantation near the city now called Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti. His parents were slaves, but claimed to be the descendents of an African king who had been taken from his native land. Perhaps that was in part the source of Toussaints unique vision and leadership abilities.
Self-educated, Toussaint joined the 1791 black slave uprising inspired by the successes of the American and French revolutionary wars. For more than a decade, a complicated web of wars was fought between free and enslaved blacks, colonists, France, Spain and Britain. The slaves sought to overthrow the French colonial regime and gain independence for themselves and their nation. Concurrently, the British and Spanish tried to take the colony from French control.
During the battles, Toussaint received his nickname, LOuverture, which means "the opening" in French, because he was always able to find an opening in the enemy lines. He was remarkably successful in battle and considered a fierce and dangerous foe.
Then, as now, black Americans were inspired by Toussaint, who showed that liberty and equality were rightly theirs. Other Americans of the time, including Thomas Jefferson, feared him and tried to prevent exchanges of trade and even information between the United States and Saint Domingue, Haitis colonial name.
By 1794 Toussaint and his forces had freed the colonys slave population, but conflict continued as the French tried to maintain control while fighting off British invaders. Finally liberating Haiti from the French in 1801, Toussaint became ruler of the land. A year later, however, the French returned, captured him and sent him to France, where he died in prison in 1803.
His inspiration lived on. Other leaders of the rebellion continued the fight, and in 1804 Haiti was declared the worlds first independent black republic, the second republic of the New World. Toussaint is honored today as one of the nations founders and a great hero of the hemisphere.
In overthrowing me, you have cut down only the trunk of the tree of liberty. It will spring up again by the roots for they are numerous and deep.
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