Who was the Black Spartacus?

Toussaint L’Ouverture is one of the most important figures in world history. He was the subject of numerous books and poems from his death in 1803 until the end of the 19th century. For the Romantics, Toussaint signified the dawning of a new era in the Americas and was an emblem of hope in the slavery abolition movement. Yet he is barely recognised in the west. So who was the Black Spartacus?

According to prominent historian CLR James Toussaint was born in north of Haiti (at the time called St.Domingue) in 1743. The grandson of a captured African chieftain he was a slave until he was 45. A highly intelligent individual he taught himself to read as a child and was well versed in Caesar’s military writings and the polemics of the French abolitionist Abbé Reynal.

Toussaint grew up as a practitioner of voodou. Voodou is a peaceable creed that marries Catholicism with African animism and is still a major religion in modern Haiti. There is a consensus amongst modern historians that Haiti’s slave rebellion first began under a Jamaican voodou priest named Boukman.

Toussaint did not join the revolution until a few weeks after it had begun but quickly became a prominent leader within the movement. He showed himself to be not only a gifted military strategist but a skilled diplomat. He would go on to lead the only successful slave revolt in modern history defeating the three mighty empires of Britain, France and Spain and liberating African slaves in Haiti half a century before the American civil war freed slaves in the United States.

In an official speech General Etienne Laveaux appointed Toussaint the first black Commander-in-Chief of the colony. Laveaux, Commander of the French forces in what was then St. Domingue hailed Toussaint L’Ouverture as “The Black Spartacus avenging his people of ancient wrongs”, a reference the slave who challenged Rome. The revolt which turned Haiti into a country free from the tyranny of slavery was part of a chain of events which directly led to British abolition of Slavery.

The heroics of Toussaint L’Ouveture will be celebrated in Thee Black Swan Theatre and Opera company’s new production called ‘Black Spartacus’ written by Anthony Maddalena and directed by Joe Charles. The play will be taking place at the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton, London from the 18th of August to the 13th of September.

For further details go to theeblackswan.co.uk or for tickets contact ticket web on 0844 477 1000

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