Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture

Farrar. Sept. 2020. 464p. ISBN 9780374112660. $30. BIOG
The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) epitomized much of the sweeping series of late 18th-century transformations that radically changed the Atlantic world, explains Hazareesingh (politics, Balliol Coll., Oxford; From Subject to Citizen). His flowing narrative of momentous social and political upheaval centers on emancipated Black slave Toussaint Louverture (1743–1803), who embodied the massive revolt that led to the abolition of slavery in the French Caribbean colony of San Domingue. Even more, Louverture represented the growing challenges to monarchical and imperial rule and the emergence of the principle of popular sovereignty that put Haiti alongside France and the United States in the forefront of republics born in that Age of Revolution. Louverture was an expositor of natural rights and enlightenment culture. With unbending will, he confronted the dominant forces of his age: European cultural supremacy, imperial domination, racial hierarchy, settler colonialism, and slavery. Louverture stands in Hazareesingh’s view as a continuing inspiration for hope as well as equality of human dignity in the struggle against global injustices.
VERDICT Tracing the growth of Louverture from revolutionary leader to mythic figure, this engrossing read reveals and recovers the historic place both he and the country of Haiti deserve to occupy in the story of the Atlantic world’s creation and re-creation.

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