Who do they think they are?
Black revolutionary,Toussaint Louverture, assesses Nelson Mandela
I wish I’d gone to Robben Island
Nelson Mandela may not regard himself as the second Toussaint Louverture. You may not see him that way either. If you'd like to know why we should be put in the same bracket, ask yourself this:
'Who was the first coloured man to overthrow a government and give permanent freedom to a whole nation built on slavery?'
It isn't Mandela, any more than it's Gandhi. When Nelson Mandela rescued his country from what was no more than enslavement, he was only doing what I had done two hundred years before. That does not make him a lesser man but it surely gives me the right to comment and compare.
Not that I seek to undermine him. You have to have a lot of charisma to carry off those shirts. I wish only to suggest that his achievements are no greater than mine.
Rolihlahla Dalibunga Mandela
François Dominique Toussaint Bréda
Made any connections?
If you can link the past to the present, we’d love to hear from you.
Photo: Nelson Mandela, Wikipedia Commons
Photo: Toussaint Louverture, Wikipedia Commons
Photo: Nelson Mandela, nydailynews.com
Photo: Toussaint, badassoftheweek.com
Photo: Nelson & Naomi, modeling-news.bleek.com
Great shirt, great jacket
Hispaniola was not South Africa and I was around when the term 'Negro' wasn't an incitement to violence. Nevertheless, setting time and place to one side, the real reason you've heard of him and not of me is that he went to a better prison in a less treacherous country.
If I had the choice, I'd pick Robben Island over Fort de Joux any day. French brutality makes the South African version look like playground bullying. At least it would be warm in Robben Island. I spent a year in Fort de Joux prison in the French Alps. It was my last because the French believed that allowing prisoners food and blankets when the snows came was pampering them.
Mandela survived twenty seven years in Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster prisons. The guards weren't pleasant but they weren't murderous.
How did we get thrown in jail?
I went to prison because Napoleon 'What could the death of one wretched Negro mean to me?' Bonaparte was a racist bastard with no sense of honour. That is not a characteristic of all Frenchmen, just the majority. I had thrashed his armies with a regularity that would have had Wellington and Blucher blushing, which won me the name of the Black Napoleon. This upset the white one tremendously. In 1802, he gave me 'safe conduct' to a meeting where an agreement to abolish slavery on Hispaniola would be signed. Instead, he seized me and shipped me to France so that I could slowly shiver to death in an Alpine castle dungeon.
Nelson Mandela was incarcerated because the CIA are interfering imperialists with not a decent corpuscle amongst them. That is not a characteristic of all Americans, just the majority. The United States Central Intelligence Agency ended Nelson's romantic role as the Black Pimpernel by alerting the South African government to his David Motsamayi disguise and hiding place. For the next three decades he was brutalised but never finalised because Boers lack the imagination to be devious. There was nothing of Napoleon in Verwoerd. Vorster or Botha.
Why were we jailed?
We were committed to the same goal - the eradication of racial discrimination in our homeland. In that, I think I should be given even more credit than Nelson because I was way ahead of my times. Mandela was speaking my language when he said:
“I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”
I was the one who stopped the butchery of our lightly pigmented brethren on Hispaniola (or Saint-Domingue as I preferred it). I was into racial harmony well before anyone dreamed up a Truth Commission, though the mulattoes did test my resolve more than I'd care to acknowledge. By reaching across lines of race and class, I earned the title "Papa Toussaint". You must admit that's a lot more impressive than being nicknamed 'Madiba' because you're fond of wicked shirts.
What happened next?
As I've made clear, I died. While I was lingering over doing that, my number two, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, was stealing my glory back home by declaring the new Empire of Haiti. His revengeful brand of black racism soon got him assassinated but not before my race-blind, egalitarian revolution had been irrevocably tarnished. My reputation died with me in Fort de Joux.
Contrastingly, Nelson came out of prison a lot taller than he went in. Neither the martyrdom nor the armed revolution which he had reluctantly prepared for were necessary.
By being gracious, dignified and photogenic, he then became the most famous and respected man in the world. In fact, he has become fame's yardstick. If you haven't been photographed besides Nelson Mandela, you're a nobody today.
I don't begrudge the man the honour and fame that should have attached in part to me but can I be allowed one criticism? Aren't his constant and lucrative 'me with Nelson in a shirt' photoshoots beginning to demean him?
Toussaint Louverture’s opinion was interpreted by Will Coe, June 2011
Feel free to comment on this article.
Typical shirt shoot