In This Review

Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture
Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture
By Sudhir Hazareesingh
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020, 464 pp

Hazareesingh likens the Haitian revolutionary hero Toussaint Louverture to his contemporary nemesis, Napoléon Bonaparte. Like the French emperor, Toussaint possessed superior leadership skills, a remarkable memory for places and faces, and indefatigable physical and mental energy. Both men were bold military strategists, prodigious lawmakers, prolific communicators, and micromanagers. In their younger years, both Toussaint and Napoléon espoused the egalitarian ideas of the European Enlightenment; once in power, the exigencies of their offices brought forth more autocratic impulses. Ultimately, an accumulation of errors and the treachery of trusted associates led to defeat and exile for both legendary figures. Hazareesingh defends Toussaint against critics from the left and the right, arguing that the charismatic Haitian battled courageously for an inclusive, multiracial society, proud of its Blackness but respectful of European civilization. In sharp contrast to his more radical, vengeful successors, Toussaint succeeded in achieving some degree of economic productivity and political order while ruling Haiti. In 1998, Toussaint was admitted into the Panthéon, the sacred Parisian abode of France’s most eminent leaders.