Toussaint L'Ouverture: The Gilded African

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Locked in an Alpine castle, Toussaint L'Ouverture died in April 1803 having led the slave insurrection of Saint-Domingue and challenged French domination of the Caribbean.

It was a cruel irony to take this great leader from his Caribbean island and incarcerate him through a freezing winter.

Born a slave around 1743, Toussaint enjoyed a degree of privilege as a house slave and coachman and was taught to read and write. At 33 he was given his freedom and adopted the name L'Ouverture ("opening"). Like others he must have anticipated that the French Revolution of 1789 would liberate the slaves. Instead wealthy planters remained in control of an island vital to the French economy.

Haiti - the making of a catastrophe

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After the earthquake struck, the people of Haiti needed food, water and shelter - instead they got US troops and predatory corporations. Haiti's problems are not just a result of a natural disaster, Mike Gonzalez argues, but are rooted in the country's history of slavery and exploitation

The numbers are almost incomprehensible, the devastation and loss impossible to imagine. At least 100,000 people lie dead under the rubble, and 2 million are homeless and abandoned. The news footage of whirring helicopters and aircraft carriers outside the ruined ports created a mirage of action - but as the days passed nothing changed in the devastated slums of Port-au-Prince.

Architects of their own liberation

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Much has been written about the American Civil War, but less is known about the decisive role of black soldiers in the conflict. Michael Bradley unearths the role of free blacks and escaped slaves whose heroism helped secure victory against the Confederate South and ended slavery.

The American Civil War of 1861-65 was the world's first truly industrial conflict. It saw the mobilisation of huge economic resources and resulted in the death of some 600,000 people. Northern supporters of "free labour" fought the Southern planter elite to decide which system would dominate the country's future.

An Uncivil War

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Review of 'Marx, Tocqueville, and Race in America', August Nimtz, Lexington Books £20.95

Central to the argument in this book is Marx's famous comment in Capital, 'Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black skin it is branded.' This, Nimtz argues, underpinned Marx and Engels' approach to the American Civil War (1861 to 1865). At stake was the development of the American working class - and indeed of the European working class - not only the fate of the black slaves. Thus Nimtz shows how important race was to Marx and Engels' understanding of class - contrary to received wisdom.


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