BLACK PATRIOT AND MARTYR: Toussaint of Haiti by Ann Griffiths


Email this review


The twelve-year slave revolt that in turn overcame the local whites and the soldiers of the French monarchy, a Spanish invasion, a British expedition of some 60,000 men, and a French expedition of similar size under Napoleon's brother-in-law, was led by a graying slave of forty-five--the circumstance is as remarkable as the feat, and so it was recognized in his time. Mrs. Griffiths does well in clarifying the convolutions of Haitian history during those crowded years, and her portrayal of Toussaint as military genius, astute diplomat and humane administrator is valid. So is her condemnation of the colonial system in what was then the world's richest possession although throughout less hyperbole (""the persistent, insatiable devourer, the British Empire"") and more documentation would have made this a better book. Likewise there is no distinction between the occasional words she puts in Toussaint's mouth and those he is recorded as saying. (What's on his mind could have been dispensed with altogether, especially his final prison-cell reflections on ""the sunbleached beaches and tropical skies,"" etc., etc., and the newly free people of Haiti.) But it's good to have a more substantial account of Toussaint than the Scherman Landmark provides if not as good as it would be for kids to read C. L. R. James' The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution which, the title notwithstanding, is not too demanding for highschoolers. One lances, the other bludgeons, but both hit the mark.

Pub Date: May 11th, 1970
Publisher: Messner