Though born into slavery in Saint Domingue, Toussaint learned of Africa from his father, who had been born a free man there. He learned that he was more than a slave, that he was a human being deserving of dignity.
Toussaint joined the rebellion early on as a general but did not become the leader of the slave rebellion until 1798. He would come to be known as Toussaint L'Ouverture (the one who finds an opening) and brilliantly led his rag-tag slave army.
Toussaint learned to read and write and read every book he could get his hands on. He particularly admired the writings of the French Enlightenment philosophers, who spoke of individual rights and equality.
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As conflicts between plantation owners and the free people of color were raging, the slaves took their shot at freedom. Initially led by Dutty Boukman, the slave revolts were very successful early on but stalled out after organized resistance from the plantation owners and the French military.
By 1803 Napoleon was ready to get Haiti off his back: he and Toussaint agreed to terms of peace. Napoleon agreed to recognize Haitian independence and Toussaint agreed to retire from public life. A few months later, the French invited Toussaint to come to a negotiating meeting with full safe conduct.
Napoleon decided to give up his possessions in the New World. He was busy in Europe and these far-away possessions were more trouble than they were worth. He abandoned Haiti to independence and sold the French territory in North America to the United States (the Louisiana Purchase).