Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life by Philippe Girard
Well, the controversial French historian Philippe Girard’s new biography on Toussaint Louverture, Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life (Basic Books, 2016), will be released in November. Girard’s interpretation and analysis of Haitian History–both colonial (Saint-Domingue) and contemporary (Haiti)– often departs from the traditional interpretation and what we Haitian scholars and students of Haitian history know about our own history and our own people, and the Haitian experience. In his scholarship, he often undermines African-Haitian self-determination, subjectivity, and our commitment “to live free or die.”
I hope this new book will shift the discourse and tell a more just historical account about the life and experiences of the enslaved African people in Saint-Domingue-Haiti, and their unrelenting commitment to revolutionary freedom, decolonization, radical humanism, and total independence. Let’s also hope in this new work, Prof. Girard upholds the integrity of our historical past, and not undermine the great achievements of revolutionary Haiti in the human narrative of freedom and universal civilization, and more particularly, the enduring contributions of Toussaint Louverture in the struggle against slavery and racism, for human emancipation, human rights, and African-Haitian dignity.
“Toussaint Louverture’s life was one of hardship, triumph, and contradiction. He was born a slave on Saint-Domingue yet earned his freedom and established himself as a small-scale planter. He even purchased slaves of his own.
Philippe Girard shows how Louverture transformed himself from lowly freedman into revolutionary hero as the mastermind of the bloody slave revolt of 1791. By 1801, Louverture was governor of the colony where he had once been a slave. But his lifelong quest to be accepted as a member of the colonial elite ended in despair: he spent the last year of his life in a French prison cell. His example nevertheless inspired anticolonial and black nationalist movements well into the twentieth century.
Based on voluminous primary-source research, conducted in archives across the world and in multiple languages, Toussaint Louverture is the definitive biography of one of the most influential men in history.”