Slavery Remembrance Day

An annual commemoration held on 23 August

On this day in 1791 an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) began, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. It was a significant event in the fight to end the transatlantic slave trade.

The date has been designated by UNESCO as the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, and is a reminder that enslaved Africans were the main agents of their own liberation.

In 2020 we invited photographer eddie OTCHERE to reflect and respond to the uprising and Toussaint L’Ouverture. Join eddie in conversation with historian Sudhir Hazareesingh, discover Toussaint L’Ouverture’s story and the portraits held in the Gallery’s Collection and explore further with Sudhir’s recommended reading list.

    Toussaint L'Ouverture,    published by François Séraphin Delpech, after  Nicolas Eustache Maurin,    1833,    NPG D8211,    © National Portrait Gallery, London Toussaint L'Ouverture, published by François Séraphin Delpech, after Nicolas Eustache Maurin, 1833
    Toussaint L'Ouverture,    by François Bonneville, after  Unknown artist,    early 19th century,    NPG D8212,    © National Portrait Gallery, London Toussaint L'Ouverture, by François Bonneville, after Unknown artist, early 19th century
    Toussaint L'Ouverture,    by John Barlow, published by  James Cundee, after  Marcus Rainsford,    published in An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti, 1805,    NPG D15719,    © National Portrait Gallery, London Toussaint L'Ouverture, by John Barlow, published by James Cundee, after Marcus Rainsford, published in An Historical Account of the Black Empire of Hayti, 1805

Toussaint L’Ouverture

Born into slavery around 1743, and known as Toussaint de Bréda on the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue, Toussaint L'Ouverture's leadership of the Haitian Revolution has made him an inspiration for black nationalist struggle to this day. L'Ouverture gained his freedom in his thirties, married and had two sons before joining the revolution in 1791, initially as an adviser. His uncompromising stance over full abolition of slavery led to his emergence as Brigadier-General of the rebel army. He then took the name of L'Ouverture, meaning 'the opening'. A master of guerilla warfare, repeatedly risking his life fighting under the banner of 'Liberty or Death', he defeated the Spanish and British and by 1801 had successfully abolished slavery and French control. In 1802 the French ruler Napoléon Bonaparte sent 43,000 troops to capture L'Ouverture and reinstate French rule and slavery. L'Ouverture was deported to France, where he died in prison on 7 April 1803.

Biography by eddie OTCHERE.

Explore Toussaint L'Ouverture in our Collection

Interview with eddie OTCHERE and Sudhir Hazareesingh

 

eddie OTCHERE

Headshot of eddie OTCHERE standing under a tree

eddie OTCHERE (b.1974) is a south London photographer whose solo and collaborative projects engage with Hip Hop culture and photography, documenting cultural pioneers and landscapes that represent the social history of varying Black cultures. These investigations document the construction of movements, revealing the entrenched human desire to express through, dance, music, poetry and food. OTCHERE has exhibited, performed and presented projects at institutions within the UK and abroad including National Portrait Gallery, London. Brighton Festival, Brighton. Southbank Centre, London. HVW8 Gallery, Los Angeles, International Centre of Photography, New York and the Museum of London.

Sudhir Hazareesingh

Headshot of Sudhir Hazareesingh with his arms crossed

Sudhir Hazareesingh was born in Mauritius, and is a Fellow in Politics at Balliol College, Oxford. He has written extensively about the history and political culture of modern France, and his latest book is Black Spartacus: the epic life of Toussaint Louverture (Allen Lane, forthcoming September 2020).

Readings on Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution suggested by Sudhir Hazareesingh

  • Aimé Césaire, Toussaint Louverture. La Révolution Française et le problème colonial. Paris, Présence Africaine, 1981
  • Laurent Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 2004
  • Carolyn Fick, The making of Haiti. The Saint-Domingue revolution from below. Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1990.
  • Sibylle Fischer, Modernity Disavowed. Haiti and the cultures of slavery in the age of revolution. Durham, Duke University Press, 2004
  • David Geggus, The Haitian Revolution: A documentary history. Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing, 2014
  • Sudhir Hazareesingh, Black Spartacus: The epic life of Toussaint Louverture. London, Allen Lane, 2020
  • C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins. Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo revolution (1938), London, Penguin, 2001
  • Fabienne Pasquet, La deuxième mort de Toussaint Louverture, Arles, Actes Sud, 2001
  • Julius Scott, The Common Wind. Afro-American currents in the age of the Haitian revolution. London, Verso, 2018
  • Ashli White, Encountering Revolution. Haiti and the making of the early Republic. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 2010