Sunday, February 5, 2012

Saint Domingue & Toussaint Louverture by Dr. Philippe Girard of McNeese State University

Dr. Phillipe Girard, associate professor of history and department head at McNeese State University gave an excellent presentation at our Bayou Writers' Group meeting yesterday.  The reason I'm writing about this is because not only was his topic fascinating, but he shared with us the five years it took him to research his book "The Slaves Who Defeated Napoleon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence (University of Alabama Press, 2011).  Dr. Girard's native language is French, and at times it was a little hard to understand.  His enthusiasm and education on the subject makes me want to enroll in one of his history classes just to listen to him speak.  I forgot what true French sounds like! As usual, I took notes:
  • 200 years ago Saint-Domingue was the world's leading exporter of sugar and coffee.  (WORLD'S largest, according to Dr. Girard.)  Now, present-day Haiti is one of the poorest countries.
  • Toussant Louverture was a slave who became a freedman who became a land owner and slave owner who then became a leader and finally governor of Haiti (sounds a bit like the movie Gladiator, huh?)
  • In 1803 Napolean's interest in Haiti and it's supporter Louisiana diminished, and he wondered how to get rid of Louisiana. At the same time, Jefferson and his team showed up in France to buy that piece of property.  Odd coincidence.
  • Haiti wasn't recognized by the United States as a country until 1863 (two years into the Civil War).
  • In 1794, France was the first country in the world to abolish slavery.  70 years before the U.S..
After his presentation, lots of members asked questions.  It was an excellent meeting and I encourage visitors to come.  You never know who will show up at the BWG meetings.  Our next meeting is Sat, March 3 at 10:00 am at the Carnegie Library on Pujo St in Lake Charles.  See our website at

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it was a great presentation. Interesting!