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In order to justify his decision to arrest Toussaint, Leclerc produced two letters which,

 it was alleged, Toussaint had sent to his former chief of staff, Fontaine,

who resides at Cap Francais.  Toussaint flatly denied having written them

 

 

Books on Toussaint

Hubert Cole. Christophe: King of Haiti. New York: The Viking Press, 1967.

C.L.R. James. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938)

Edourad Gissant. Caribbean Doscourse (2004)  /  Barbara Harlow. Resistance Literature (1987)

Josaphat B. Kubayanda. The Poet's Africa: Africanness in the Poetry of Nicolas Guillen and Aime Cesaire (1990)

 

Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman.  Open Gate An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry (2001)

David P. Geggus, ed. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World.  University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

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Toussaint Trapped by Leclerc

The Treachery of Napoleon & the French

 

 

 

Toussaint Makes Peace with Leclerc

It was bright May morning when Toussaint took leave of his comrades in arms in the little town of La Marmelade.  Summoning his troops to the Place d’Armes, he announced that he had just made his peace with Leclerc.  With controlled emotion, he extolled his men’s valour and their loyalty to himself: “Never forget that you are the guardians of the honour of your race.”

Toussaint, standing stiffly in his black and gold uniform, concealed his tears from his soldiers’ eyes.  The only outward signs of his emotion were the thickness of his voice, the slightly rounded shoulders, the sadness of his eyes.  As though tearing himself away from his army by force, he leaped on his horse, and, followed by a small escort, disappeared in the direction of Ennery.  And his men had the feeling that all their glory and freedom was vanishing with him over the horizon.  Five thousand soldiers wept unrestrainedly.

In the afternoon, under the command of Morisset and Magny, they went to place themselves at the service of Captain-General Leclerc.

Toussaint did not stay long at Ennery, but almost immediately pushed on to Gonaives, where Generals Dessalines and Charles Belair had established their headquarters.

At the outset they flatly refused to lay down their arms, and this is Toussaint’s own account of the interview he had with them: "I invited Dessalines, who was staying at the Georges plantation, to come and meet me.  I urged him to surrender, as I had done, telling him that great sacrifices were necessary in the public interest.  I pointed out that I had gone the length of sacrificing my power, but that he would be able to retain his.  I said the same things to my nephew, Charles Belair.  I even brought myself to plead with them, despite my natural repugnance. . . .  They seemed heartbroken at having to leave me, and even shed tears.  After this interview each returned to his own residence."

From the very outset of his career Dessalines had envisage the total independence of the Colony as his ultimate goal.  Toussaint’s various political moves and the carefully calculated steps in his negotiations with the home government were not all to Dessalines’s taste.  He would undertake to serve France only with the mental reservation that in due course he would blow up the entire colonial machinery.  He set out to surrender to Leclerc at Cap Francais, riding proudly into the city at the head of five hundred dragoons.

In the region of Ennery, Toussaint Louverture possessed four beautiful estates: Sensay, Beaumont, Rouffeliers, and Descahaux.  The last-named, with its flourishing coffee plantation, was the Negro leader’s favourite, and to it he retired.  During his sojourn there Toussaint, surrounded by his family, reverted to the customs which had been interrupted by the imperious demands of war.  Every morning, wearing the costume of a landowner—long white tunic and white trousers and a broad-brimmed straw hat—he would ride through his fields and personally direct the labourers in their work.  His life was peaceful, and filled with tranquility of soil and meditation.

His manifold disappointments seemed to have lent a spiritual quality to the lean features, and he had become extraordinarily kind with the mildness that so often springs from despair.  His labourers no longer recognized in their master the imperious, dogmatic autocrat they had known.  He even relaxed his excessive religious practices.  Had he ceased to believe in God?  It almost seemed so, for on the day on which he had taken leave of his men, he had gone to the church at Ennery.  Unknown to Toussaint, his nephew Bernard Chancy had followed him inside.  

Chancy saw his uncle walk slowly up the altar where there stood a beautiful marble crucifix, which he himself had presented to the church.  With an angry countenance Toussaint started at the image, and then, in the bitterness of his defeat, he proceeded to apostrophize it: ‘You!  You are the God of the white men, not the God of the Negroes!  You have betrayed men, and deserted me!  You have no pity for my race!’  And with a violent movement of his hand this man, who feared only God, hurled the crucifix to the ground, where it lay shattered in a thousand pieces.

His mood of despair was not final, however.  Toussaint was a tenacious man; and he had not abdicated.  He thought that he could still, when he wished, pick up the broken pieces of his sword and set out once more in quest of the ever-tantalizing goal of freedom.

The Captain-General had been victorious, but he entertained serious misgivings, about the extent of his triumph.  He was not long in revealing his bias against the Negro leader.  He had already requested Toussaint to dismiss his private guard, which according to their agreement he was entitled to retain; and Toussaint had done so.  Soldiers from the Ennery garrison raided Toussaint’s plantation day and night, pillaging the crops, ill-treating his employees and slaughtering his livestock.  Armed men, spies, continually hung about in the vicinity of his residence.  

Toussaint had already sent a vigorous letter to Leclerc protesting against the raids and the espionage; but the Captain-General had not deigned to reply.  Since the depredations went from bad to worse, and threats were directed against Toussaint himself, he then sent Placide to Leclerc with yet another letter in which he wrote: "having found that my residence in the mountains is not such as to inspire confidence, I am proposing to move to Beaumont, just outside Ennery." 

 He did so forthwith.  This removal did nothing to appease the French officers’ suspicions, and the pastime of subjecting Toussaint to irritations and pinpricks merely increased in intensity.  He again informed the Captain-General of his desire for peace, told him that there were no armed men on his estates, and said that if the molestations did not cease he would remove far away to one of his remote eastern estates.

Plans to Seize Toussaint's Person

Fearing that he might lose his prey, Leclerc determined to seize Toussaint’s person while he could.  If this project was to accomplished honourably it might, of course, lead to another general conflagration; it was therefore desirable to lure Toussaint into some sort of trap.

Meanwhile the French army was having to confront an enemy much more relentless than Toussaint had ever been: yellow fever.  Within the space of a fortnight six thousand white men, soldiers and civilians, succumbed to the disease.  Particularly were the soldiers stricken, and the hospitals of Cap Francais and Port au Prince were filled overflowing with sick men, whose moaning could be heard far away.  Leclerc did not know how to meet this new scourge.  His splendid army was disappearing before his eyes, transformed into carrion in a tropical climate already poisoned by bitter warfare.  Futhermore, since war had again broken out with England, the British Fleet was blockading the harbours of Saint Domingue once more, and very few French supply ships were able to win through to the Colony.

The task of finally pacifying Saint Domingue also meant daily and bloody combats.  Negroes, absolutely invincible, formed fanatical bands, and from the hills, the forests, and the bush they planned and carried out pitless raids on French camps, on the towns, and even into the suburbs of Cap Francais itself.  Everywhere the French army was continually being harried by these "irascible brigands," to use Leclerc’s own phrase.

Toussaint followed the course of events with delight.  Strictly speaking he was not the brain behind the rebellion, but it admirably expressed his secret longing.  Silent, he gave no inkling of his pleasure; but Leclerc, through his spies, knew that an air of optimism was reigning among the veterans of Toussaint’s guard, who lived near him.  These veterans frankly declared that they were only waiting for the right moment to take up their arms again.

Leclerc, on the other hand, his nerves stretched to breaking-point by anxiety and fear, was gradually being worn down.  His nervousness and alarm could be seen in the wholesale slaughtering of Negroes that he now ordered.  He even went so far as to hold Toussaint responsible for the defeats of the French soldiers by the rebel bands.  He was now convinced that Toussaint was directing the whole rebellion from behind the scenes.

On the other side of the picture, was Toussaint really conspiring against the French army?  There can be little doubt that he was, for such hidden activity would appeal to him as the only means of furthering his aim; and he must have been urged to it by the tremendous effect on the French army of the deadly onslaughts of yellow fever.   Toussaint thus lived dangerously, virtually unprotected, on his estate, knowing well that he was constantly menaced, and yet taking a voluptuous pleasure in throwing the dice just once more, even when he knew that the odds were against him.

In order to justify his decision to arrest Toussaint, Leclerc produced two letters which, it was alleged, Toussaint had sent to his former chief of staff, Fontaine, who resides at Cap Francais.  Toussaint flatly denied having written them, and stated that they must be apocryphal.  Which of the two men are we to believe?  It is certain that the letters are written in Toussaint’s inimitable style, and the very phrases seem to reveal Toussaint’s way of thinking.  

If they are false, then the author certainly knew how to get inside Toussaint’s mind, for the whole correspondence is imbued with the spirit of Toussaint, with his sense of irony and his gravedigger’s wit.  

Here is an extract: 

At last Providence [the name of the hospital in Cap Francais, overflowing with sick Frenchmen] has come to our aid.  How many journeys do they make to Fossette [the cemetery] every night?  It is known that General Leclerc is far from well at Tortue.  I must be kept informed of this.  If you see the Captain-General, do not fail to tell him that the plantation workers do not obey to him.  You must see we can win over anyone who has access to him.  

You must see X about the A . . s from New Orleans.  As for how much flour [gunpowder] can be sent, it cannot be sent at all unless it is sent to the east.  Write to me at Majaca, and I shall tell you where it must be landed.  Tell Gingembre Trop Fort that he must not leave the region of Borgne, for it is essential that the plantation workers should not resume their labours.  As soon as General Leclerc has fallen seriously ill . . . please be good enough to inform me."

There is no doubt that this document is Toussaint’s work, even though he did not append his signature.  Everything is typical of the man: the subtlety, the cynicism, the touch of fanaticism, the delight in somber humour.  And there are two other indications that he must be have been the author.  In the second letter there is a passage of invective directed against Henry Christophe, and regrets are expressed at Dessaline’s seeming indifference to the writer.  Dessalines was in fact cooling towards Toussaint.  He considered the former chief as finished, and his sole object was to succeed him.

Leclerc was quite within his rights in wanting to eliminate Toussaint from the scene, in just as Toussaint was equally entitled to try to restore the situation to his own advantages, for, despite the harshness of his methods, his sole aim was to abolish the odious system of repression and achieve the final victory and freedom of his race.  So he feigned inaction, while secretly organizing the revolt which would enable him to leap on to the stage once more with all the ferocity and bitterness that had accumulated within him as the result of his recent defeats and experiences.

Unceasingly Leclerc was turning over in his mind how he could rid himself of Toussaint without having recourse to violence, which would only mean setting the whole Colony in a turmoil once more.  But it was no easy task to capture this astute man, as wily as a fox.  Besides, the most unforeseen consequence might ensue, for if his attempt were to fail Leclerc would find himself confronted with a wild beast who this time would wage a war against him far more savage and desperate than the previous one; and Leclerc’s army was now decimated.

The raids on Toussaint’s estates were renewed, and Toussaint protested violently to Leclerc, who, having perhaps been waiting just for this reaction, replied telling him that General Brunet had been instructed to put an end to the incursions, and that it would therefore be desirable for him to talk the matter over with Brunet himself.  

Brunet then wrote to Toussaint saying that he would be delighted to meet him to profit by his wisdom and experience, since, having just arrived in the Colony, he was not sufficiently conversant with the local topography to know where to station his outposts.  He then went on to say that his military duties prevented him from visiting Toussaint, and he therefore begged the latter to make the short journey himself; and he ended his letter with a duplicity unworthy of any soldier: "In my country estate you will not find all the comforts and amenities with which I would like to welcome you; but you will find the frankness of a brave man whose desires are for your personal welfare . . . I repeat, my dear General, that you will not find a more sincere friend than myself."

Toussaint Kidnapped by Brunet

Toussaint, persuaded by the French general’s tone, flattered by his deference and respectful modesty, replied that though unwell he would visit the Frenchman at his residence.  On June 5, 1802, he set out from the Beaumont plantation, followed by a handful of horsemen.  Riding through the little town of Ennery he was slightly surprised to note that the French garrison did not pay him the usual honours due to his rank.  The soldiers, as he passed, were silent, and the officers glanced at him with furtive embarrassment.  

Quickening his pace, Toussaint rode swiftly on to the Pont Gaudin plantation, where Brunet was awaiting him.  As soon as Brunet saw him in the distance he ran towards him.  Toussaint dismounted at once, and the two men embraced each other warmly.  Entering the house together they withdrew to the room set aside for the discussions.  The courtyard of Brunet’s residence was filled with French guards, all armed.  Toussaint’s small escort mingled with the groups of soldiers.  Drinks and cordial greetings followed, while the former enemies talked together of their past battles.

Meanwhile inside the house, Toussaint and Brunet were conversing together amicably.  Suddenly the French general rose to his feet, and with a muttered apology left the room.  Almost immediately a detachment of ten men with fixed bayonets swept in.  Drawing his sword, Toussaint leaped to his feet, his eyes flashing angrily.  "Useless, General," said Ferrari, the officer in charge, and one of Leclerc’s personal aides.  "Your men are already in chains, our troops command the entire countryside, and you are surrounded.  The Captain-General has ordered me to arrest you.  You no longer count for anything in Saint Domingue: surrender your sword."

Stiffly, in complete silence, Toussaint handed his sword to Ferrari.  On his face there was not a trace of fear, indignation, or anger, only an expression of infinite shame: the shame of having fallen into the obvious trap—he of all men, who was normally so prudent.  He did not seem to be worried by speculation on his fate; he was only humiliated that the proverbial eagle had once more fallen victim to the cock.

He was conducted, on foot, to Gonaives, and throughout the journey the roads and streets were lined with groups of white soldiers.  It was a bright, sunlit morning when he passed through the streets of Gonaives, and the frightened townspeople beheld their legendary hero, bound like a common thief, surrounded by nervous guards—a slight, tragic figure with staring eyes, the blue silk kerchief knotted about his head, and wearing the celebrated three-cornered hat with its tricolour cockade and its red and white plumes.  In his proud bearing there was a dignified air of resignation which commanded respect.

He was then taken on board the Creole, which had been lying off Gonaives for more than a week, and was greeted with a crude remark from the master of the ship: "Ha!  So we’ve got you at last, eh, Toussaint?The Negro leader, who had not uttered a word since his arrest, retorted with cold fury: "Yes, you have my head, but not my tail."

Jerome de Pesquidoux, the commander of the military escort, was profoundly distressed at the event.  When the Creole reached Cap Francais bay, she moved up to the Heros, to which Toussaint was transferred.  There he was received by General Savary, who told him, to add to his humiliation: "You won’t be able to play the Negro Napoleon any more now, will you?" Toussaint gave the French officer a scornful glance, and then said, speaking slowly, as though he were reading the future: "By overthrowing me you have merely succeeded in cutting the trunk of Saint Domingue’s Tree of Liberty: but it will grow again, for the roots are deep, and many."

The Aftermath of Toussaint's Capture

Tears filled his eyes when his fourteen-year-old son, Saint Jean, ran to him weeping, and clasped his legs.  Gently he stroked the boy’s head, and then pushed him away, saying, as he looked steadily into his eyes: "My son must not cry.  He must learn to be brave in misfortune, and dream of the future."

Every member of Toussaint’s family had been seized and conveyed from the Guerriere to the Heros: Madame Louverture, Isaac, Placide, Bernard Chancy, Louise Chancy, and a mulatto girl called Victorine Thuzac.  Among the other captives were Monpoint, the commander of the elite Guard, Morrisset of the Red Cloaks, Toussaint’s personal valet, Mars Plaisir, and a servant-girl, Justine.

Toussaint’s reunion with his family was a short duration.  General Savary, his jailer, tore him away and led him down to the cabin where he was to be left in solitary confinement.

As soon as it became known that Toussaint has been carried off, it was as though a train of gunpowder had been ignite.  The Negro masses, frenzied with grief, screamed out their rage and despair.  The lambis sounded again, summoning the warriors to war.  Charles Belair in the Saint Marc mountains, Sans Souci at Vallieres, Petit Noel Prieur at Dondon, and Scylla at Plaisance, all revolted, and swept down from their hiding-places at the head of infuriated forces.  Petit Noel hurled all his forces at Ennery, destroying everything that lay in his path.

Leclerc ordered Christophe, Dessalines, and Clerveaux to put down the rebels.  Charles Belair, falling into the hands of Dessalines, who was jealous of him as Toussaint’s political heir, was shot by the side of Sanite, his wife, Jacques Maurepas, the glorious conqueror of Debelle at Kellola Pass, was drowned, together with his wife and five young children.  The Captain-General had feared Maurepas more than any other Negro general.  Before drowning him, Debelle had Maurepas’s epaulettes nailed to his bare shoulders.

Lamartiniere, the indomitable hero of Crete a Pierrot, was killed, by Leclerc’s orders, in an ambush.  Paul Louverture and Simon Baptiste were drowned Fontaine and Domange were put to the sword.  Leclerc, depressed by illness and maddened by the conflagration he had provoked, thought he could put an end to all the disorders by a blood-bath.  The public execution of women, rotting corpses hanging from gibbets, drownings, murders—these were the methods used by the Captain-General to preserve the Colony for France.

Leclerc and Rochambeau had wooden cages built, which they called etouffoirs.  Their victims were shut up in these, which were then filled with burning sulphur, and then thrown into the sea, so that they die of asphyxiation—or drowning.  Dogs were then imported to devour the Negroes.

The Negroes, during the course of these events in Saint Domingue, were also guilty of grave excesses in their reprisals but they never reached the pitch of sadism and crime achieved by their "educators."

Causes of Continuing Rebellion

The capture of Toussaint Louverture was not the only cause of the rebellion: the general disarmament of the plantation workers, decreed by Leclerc, was another very important cause.  The Negroes had never forgotten how Leger Felicite Sonthonax had told them if the white men sought to take away the guns he had given them, then the white men meant to enslave them.

They were the more infuriated because France had re-established slavery in the neighbouring colonies.  A decree authorizing this had appeared in the Officiel on May 20, and in Guadeloupe, General Richepanse had carried it out ‘with the sword’.

Leclerc, virtually at bay, sent frantic messages to Napoleon by every boat, pleading for reinforcements to rectify the situation.  Napoleon, however, who was himself squandering the youth of France on the battlefields of Europe, had no reserve available for Saint Domingue.  Very occasionally, however, small quantities of reinforcements came trickling in, and Leclerc promptly hurled them into the holocaust, where they rapidly disappeared.  On September 13 he wrote again to his brother-in-law: ‘I have so far received 6,723 out of the 12,000 men promised me, and sent them at once into battle.  They have all been wiped out.  My position is deteriorating rapidly every day.  My losses are incalculable.’

Then, maddened by fear and illness, Leclerc redoubled his ferocity in an attempt to terrorize his adversary, who, far from being frightened, merely seemed to develop an added heroism with which to face the oppressor.  The rebels pillaged and destroyed everything they could lay hands on, and the landowners lived under the threat of imminent death by fire, poison, or ambush.  The yellow fever increased in virulence, and twenty-two French generals had already succumbed.  Saint Domingue had become a bottomless abyss of terror and horror.

Through the Captain-General’s letter to Napoleon there runs and undercurrent, seeming to predict that death is not far distant.  Leclerc, in these letters, spoke of his anxieties, his disappointments, his weariness; and he asked over and over again for soldiers, arms, and money to be poured into the unquenchable volcano of Saint Domingue.  Deep melancholy underlay his martial words, for Leclerc well knew now that to preserve the Colony for France every single Negro would have to be destroyed.  Yet, despite everything, he still thought that if his brother-in-law were to send him a sufficiently large army of men, he would be able to regain control of the situation.  

He therefore wrote in the following terms: 

I have received your latest dispatches. . . .  Do not think of re-establishing slavery before the moment is ripe. . . .  There will be time enough for my successor to act on the Government’s decree. . . .  After all my proclamations assuring the Negroes of their freedom I cannot possibly go back on my word. . . .

Until today Dessalines had not even considered raising the standard of revolt, but he is thinking of it now. . . .  I cannot have him arrested, because it would merely upset all the other Negroes who theoretically remain loyal to me.  I have slightly more confidence in Christophe.  But when these two are arrested it will have to be simultaneously. . . .  

The troops which arrived a month ago have already been wiped out. . . .  Let the Government send me 10,000 men, apart from the reinforcements already on the way; let them also send me two million in cash, not in orders on Vera Cruz.  When I ask you for money you do not reply.  Put yourself in my place . . . such desertion is enough to cast down a less hardy spirit than mine. . . .  

I am seriously thinking of leaving this country. . . .  You will only be able to preserve Saint Domingue by maintaining an army of 70,000 hardened and acclimatized men."

At the landing of the splendid troops of the French expeditionary force Toussaint had cried out: "What criminal folly to expose this army on the brink of a volcano!"  And Leclerc was now learning the bitter truth of this.  Disappointed in his high hopes, worn out with cares and fatigues, the yellow fever found the ground well prepared for its onslaught on the Captain-General.  

On October 21, while directing operations against Colonel Francois Capois, who had recently annihilated an army commanded by General Brunet at Port de Paix, Leclerc was seized by the uncontrollable vomitings which invariably precede the dreaded vomito negro.  He was at once conveyed to bed.  Pauline, as beautiful as ever, now showed herself to be a courageous and devoted wife.  Quite unafraid of contamination she tended her husband day and night; but her care was all in vain.

At ten o’clock in the evening on November 2, while a thin drizzle of rain was falling outside, Leclerc, feeling the approach of death, sent for his chief of staff, General Boyer, and dictated his last wishes.  General Donatien Rochambeau was given the task of continuing the operations against the rebels.  Leclerc died a quarter of an hour after midnight, ‘groaning about the folly of man’.  He was thirty years old.

Dessalines, Christophe, Clerveaux, Petion, and Geffrard, all the rebel leaders, Negroes and mulattoes, were already up in arms, forced into unity of action.  Three months after Toussaint’s departure his prophecy had been fulfilled.  Napoleon and Leclerc had attempted something beyond their power: nothing could enslave again the men who had once known freedom.

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The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World 

Reviewed by Mimi Sheller

Fifteen international scholars, including eminent historians David Brion Davis, Seymour Drescher, and Robin Blackburn, explicate such diverse ramifications as the spawning of slave resistance and the stimulation of slavery's expansion, the opening of economic frontiers, and the formation of black and white diasporas. Seeking to disentangle the effects of the Haitian Revolutionfrom those of the French Revolution, they demonstrate that its impact was ambiguous, complex, and contradictory.Publisher, University of South Carolina Press

Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804

A Brief History with Documents

By Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus

This volume details the first slave rebellion to have a successful outcome, leading to the establishment of Haiti as a free black republic and paving the way for the emancipation of slaves in the rest of the French Empire and the world. Incited by the French Revolution, the enslaved inhabitants of the French Caribbean began a series of revolts, and in 1791 plantation workers in Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue, overwhelmed their planter owners and began to take control of the island. They achieved emancipation in 1794, and after successfully opposing Napoleonic forces eight years later, emerged as part of an independent nation in 1804. A broad selection of documents, all newly translated by the authors, is contextualized by a thorough introduction considering the very latest scholarship. Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus clarify for students the complex political, economic, and racial issues surrounding the revolution and its reverberations worldwide. Useful pedagogical tools include maps, illustrations, a chronology, and a selected bibliography.—Publisher, Bedford/St. Martin's

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 18 February 2012

 

 

 

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