A former slave and educated Roman Catholic, Toussaint L’Ouverture (the ‘Black Napoleon’) led the Haitian Revolution in 1791. L’Ouverture, inspired by the French Revolution and its rhetoric of equality and independence and appalled by the abuses suffered by generations of African slaves at the hands of white planters, joined the slave insurgency, soon emerging as a leader and making Port-au-Prince the epicentre of the uprising. By 1794, the French government, threatened by the rebels’ alliance with Spain, which already controlled the eastern part of the island, had confirmed that slavery was abolished. In 1796, there was a failed British intervention, with a British surrender and withdrawal from Le Môle St. Nicholas. In 1801, L’Ouverture and his ‘rag-tag army’ invaded Spanish Santo Domingo and abolished slavery, with L’Ouverture declaring himself the island’s governor. The French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, was unsuccessful in his attempt to reclaim Haiti in 1803, but captured L’Ouverture and imprisoned him in France, where he died not long after.
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