Toussaint plays

Stumbled across references to a couple of Toussaint-related productions. Danny Glover starred as TL in a production at Carnegie Hall on May 23rd of this year. Also, I had been aware of the play For Love of Freedom, produced in 2001 at the Robey theatre in LA, but not that it was a trilogy! Apparently, “FOR THE LOVE OF FREEDOM;TOUSSAINT THE SOUL part I in the year 2001. Part 2 if the Haitian trilogy, DESSALINE; THE HEART, was produced in 2002, and part three is slated for 2004.”

Finally, Paul Robeson’s one-act about Toussaint, Lion in Captivity, was the subject of a casting call on October 29th.

RK for Sunday

Korngold p 101 – Speculates on Toussaint’s reason for choosing the name Louverture. I would prefer to avoid speculation on such things. Who knows whether Toussaint himself consciously knew the reason? Sometimes our psyches assimilate circumstances for us. Perhaps, though, Toussaint did see himself as a savior. Perhaps he was aware of himself as uniquely positioned to deliver emancipation.

P 110 – Toussaint claims to have spent 640,00 Francs of his own money. Korngold speculates this was given to Toussaint at the beginning of the revolution.

TL’s success in battle is often credited to the speed with which his army moved. Compare this with the successes of other great generals – including Napoleon – and to the OODA loop and the theories proposed by John Boyd.

P 112 – “The statesman Toussaint realized that surrounded as were the Negroes of St. Domingo by slaveowning powers, they could not hope to maintain liberty without building an economically powerful state able to supply them with modern weapons of warfare. To do this the cooperation of the whites was indispensable.”

Toussaint’s significant contributions to the liberation of Haiti included arming the Negroes and bending over backwards to treat whites humanely and without a trace of vindictiveness. By showing himself to be fair and just, he gained the cooperation of blacks AND whites.

Toussaint in from the beginning?

I got my new PowerBook today, so I can hardly concentrate, but here goes…

Korngold makes the astonishing claim that Toussaint was in on the revolution from the beginning in 1791! I’m stunned. I never heard this part before. According to Citizen Toussaint, the then-Governor of St. Domingue was convinced that the best way to quell any talk of independence among the plantation owners was to stage a slave revolt. The governor visited the Breda plantation, where Toussaint either volunteered or was suggested as a suitable candidate to organize the mock rebellion. Toussaint then set the wheels in motion for the events of 1791.

As I originally heard the story, Toussaint joined the rebellion at the age of 47 as a doctor, then rose to the ranks of General. This did in fact happen, but TL was involved long before that point.

Korngold’s Toussaint

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

The manila folder people loved my Grandfather

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!

Two articles about Haiti

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.