p 61 “[Toussaint} knew that the Negroes were oppressed not becase they were Negroes, but because they were weak. Epictetus and millions of other white men had been slaves. The chieftains who sold war prisoners and even their own subjects into slavery were of the same race as their victims. White planters were often cruel, but mulatto planters were said to be even worse.”
This quote is exactly what I’ve been looking for. For too long we have confused slavery as being a cruelty that only white people do to only black people. Slavery is a human embarrassment. It has nothing to do with race.
I’ve been thinking about presenting the Toussaint story much in the manner of a Shakespearean play that has been updated. What if his story could be told in today’s terms, placing him in today’s context, so that readers could relate to how respected he was and how important he was to his time? Do I have Clue One about how to pull this off? No really, but I really like the idea. Dispensing with the race issue might jar people’s understanding just enough to relate.
“Patience bat la force” = Patience overcomes strength.
“Doucement alle’ loin” = Gentleness goes far.
I’m reading Ralph Korngold’s Citizen Toussaint today. Uncle Jay says this book, published in 1944 seems to be the definitive book of Toussaint. The author certainly has good credentials and a chunky bibliography. Korngold was a French professor at one point and therefore was able to translate the French documents of the period.
On page 14, Korngold paints the picture of Le Cap as a bustling, transient village, with white men itching for the day they could leave and return to France. One wonders, if this is so, whether white planter’s hearts would be in revolution, or whether they were only interested in protecting their investments.
From page 15, “…a free Negro would not have attempted to own a mulatto slave, who would have preferred death to such a humiliation.” I wonder if this dynamic came into play with Toussaint. What were the racial tensions he had to deal with, besides the obvious black/whte ones?
Continue reading Korngold’s Toussaint
I’ve spent the last 3 hours sorting Grandfather’s Toussaint-related files. Man there’s a bunch of stuff!
My strategy is to separate all of Grandfather’s writings, then organize the rest and use that as the supporting research to get me started. I’d love to get rid of a lot of this – looks like there’s a lot of duplication – but I don’t know what’s important and what isn’t just yet. I just know that there’s a lot of it!
My girlfriend pointed out this newspaper article to me about the horrendous living conditions of modern Haitians, who are preparing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of independence as the world’s first black republic. On the same page of that November 23rd, 2003, Seattle Times was this article about child slavery in Haiti.
The first article, entitled “Haitians too poor to celebrate 200 years of freedom” (Letta Tayler, Newsday) describes the abject poverty suffered by the 8 million residents of that island nation. I can’t help noticing how much Haiti seems to be a land stuck in time. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is seen by some as just as corrupt as every other Haitian dictator. Blacks are still overwhelmingly oppressed (mostly by the “mulatto elite”) and the government’s ability to impose order on its subjects is spotty at best. A little money might help put Haiti on the path of economic recovery, yet a large aid package is on hold because of the tenuous political situation there. Haiti seems to have been at the mercy of other nations both economically and politically since its inception.
The second article, “To survive, young forced into servitude” by Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times, describes child slavery in Haiti. Young children there are sold into slavery by the most desperately poor parents, often to people only slightly better off than the parents in the first place. While I suppose that at least slavery can confer some survival advantages to the slave (and better the position of the slave owner, thereby at least theoretically making life better still for the slave), I can only think that Toussaint Louverture is crying a river of tears that the country he loved and fought to liberate could still be suffering so 200 years after his death.