Toussaint L’Ouverture was born a slave, became an overseer and was finally freed. Toussaint became the leader of rebel slaves in St. Domingue and orchestrated the first successful overthrow of enslavement. This led to the formation of only the second republic in the Americas after the United States and the first Black Republic. L’Ouverture dressed like an emperor – a status he sought to emulate – and he made himself Governor of St. Domingue in 1801. Today St. Domingue is known as Haiti.
Like his contemporary, Napoleon, L’Ouverture had a powerfully commanding presence. This etching was made in 1802 when he was captured by the French. He remained imprisoned in France until his death in 1803. This image was not, however, drawn from life: no accurate representations of L’Ouverture exist.