By Apeike UMOLU
Toussaint L’Ouverture looms large in Black emancipatory thought as the general who freed Haitians from slavery and Haiti from French suzerainty. But he was no early adopter, taking his time to join the revolution, and was unfortunately off the scene before independence was declared in 1804. So, who were the men and women who began the revolution and saw it to fruition? The historian CLR James notes in his ground-breaking book on the Haitian revolution, The Black Jacobins, that Toussaint was ‘no Negro freak’, so as to say that his generation of Haitian leaders was bursting with talent. In this lecture, we’ll explore the Haitian revolutionary guard beyond Toussaint, the generals, soldiers and ‘brigands’ that maintained disequilibrium for over a decade, seeing off the Spanish, the British and ultimately the French. Dispelling along the way the myth of the exceptionalism of Black excellence, we’ll meet in the Haiti of the 18th century an exceptional class of Black military leaders.