Monday, March 16, 2009

Toussaint Louverture in Miami

I was on another route in Miami, headed from North Bay Village to 53rd Street. As I zipped along North Miami Drive I spotted a small parkette, with a statue, at 62nd. Having no good place to pull over, I circled the block and parked.

I knew I had read the name and I knew a connection to Napoleon, but that's all I could recall and the marker was not very helpful. As usual The WikiWackyWoo was more helpful:
Historical significance

Toussaint Louverture played a key role in what was the first successful attempt by a slave population in the Americas and the world to throw off the yoke of Western colonialism. He defeated armies of three imperial powers: Spain, France, and Great Britain. The success of the Haitian Revolution had enduring effects on shaking the institution of slavery throughout the New World. Haiti became the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere.

After being captured by the French general Leclerc, on the ship to France, Toussaint Louverture warned his captors that the rebels would not make his mistake in the following words: "In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint Domingue only the tree of the trunk of liberty, it will spring up again from the roots, for they are many and they are deep."
James Mastin has sculpted a very impressive Toussaint Louverture.


Bear with me, because I'm not an Art Critic and I never met Toussaint Louverture. However, Mastin gives his subject all the quiet dignity of the "warrior, liberator, diplomat, statesman" that Louverture represents. The statue seems to capture the man I have since read about.

He stands impressively on a black, polished granite base that has the brass plaque on its front.

It's unusual to see a Black man dressed in the European refineries of the day and, at least for me, that's also what's so striking about the statue.

Sadly, the parkette is a meager little thing. It appears to be relatively new, considering Google Maps satellite view has the park, but not the statue and landscaping that came along with it. Drag the little street view guy over, tho', and you'll see the statue is there. What's more, you can see the landscaping when it was new and lush.

Compare that with my recent picture at right. It's no longer lush, green and verdant. A lack of rain has dried the grass to patches of brown with some light green showing. The bushes were once a relatively thick hedge surrounding the parkette, which would have given the statue a sense of place. Now, again because of near-drought conditions, the are scraggly and, in some places, disconnected.

Oh, and that Napoleon stuff?

According to History Wiz:
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 will full safe conduct. When he arrived, the French (at Napoleon's orders) betrayed the safe conduct and arrested him, putting him on a ship headed for France. Napoleon ordered that Toussaint be placed in a prison dungeon in the mountains, and murdered by means of cold, starvation, and neglect. Toussaint died in prison, but others carried on the fight for freedom.
With all my love,
Aunty Em

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of interest -- You can see a clip of Toussaint's last moments in prison from the award-winning new short film "The Last Days of Toussaint L'Ouverture" at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2468184/ This film is the basis for a new feature (not with Danny Glover) that is in development.