Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions

Part of Pluto Press’s ‘Revolutionary Lives’ series … and co-written with Professor Charles Forsdick…

Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions


“In overthrowing me, you have done no more than cut down the trunk of the tree of the black liberty in St. Domingue—it will spring back from the roots, for they are numerous and deep.”

These are Toussaint Louverture’s last words before being taken to prison in France. Heroic leader of the only successful slave revolt in history, Louverture is one of the greatest anti-imperialist fighters who ever lived. Born into slavery on a Caribbean plantation, he was able to break from his bondage to lead an army of freed African slaves to victory against the professional armies of France, Spain, and Britain in the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804.

In this lively narrative biography, Louverture’s fascinating life is explored through the prism of his radical politics. Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg champion the “black Robespierre,” whose revolutionary legacy has inspired people and movements in the two centuries since his death. For anyone interested in the roots of modern resistance movements and black political radicalism, Louverture’s extraordinary life provides the perfect groundwork.


This exciting new biography of Toussaint Louverture seeks to reclaim him from conservative revisionist interpretations. Inspired by C.L.R. James and informed by the latest research, Forsdick and Høgsbjerg deliver a spirited, nuanced profile of this great revolutionary leader. The book provides a fascinating analysis of the range of reactions to Toussaint, from Wordsworth in 1802 to contemporary comic books and rap.
Alyssa Sepinwall, Professor of History, California State University San Marcos and editor of Haitian History: New Perspectives 

The dual Haitian revolution remains a critical moment in the history of the modern world. Toussaint Louverture as central leader of the slave revolution remains a complex figure. This book documents his political life while mapping one stage of the dual revolution, presenting Toussaint as a black Jacobin revolutionary, and making it clear that his life is firmly within the historical pantheon of 19th century revolutionaries. An important text.
Anthony Bogues, Asa Messer Professor of Humanities and Critical Theory, Brown University


Forsdick and Høgsbjerg’s new book should become an essential introduction to the life and politics of Louverture because it places his actions in the context of the wider Revolutionary era. It is accessible and will enable to the reader to get to grips with other classic works such as CLR James’ Black Jacobins … While the authors focus on Louverture, they never forget the role of thousands of ordinary people in winning their revolution … This is not a long book, but it contains a wealth of material and argument that everyone interested in the struggle for social justice will learn from. I highly recommend it.
Martin Empson, Resolute Reader, 24 July 2017.

In Toussaint Louverture: A Black Jacobin in the Age of Revolutions (Pluto) Charles Forsdick and Christian Hogsbjerg have produced what is arguably the most important biography of Louverture since CLR James’ magisterial Black Jacobins was first published in 1938. Kicking against the contemporary anti-Black and anti-radical revisionism that downplays the historical importance of the revolution while dismissing the significance of Louverture himself, Forsdick and Hogsbjerg’s short monograph is urgent, timely, and strikingly well-written.
Peter Hudson, The Public Archive: Radical Black Reading, 2018.

Forsdick and Høgsbjerg insist that Louverture’s historical import was undeniable and end by quoting William Wordsworth, “There’s not a breathing of the common wind / That will forget thee.”
Philippe Girard, author of Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life, New West Indian Guide, 92, 3-4 (2018)

Attentive to complexities, and deeply influenced by C.L.R. James’ work,
Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg’s Toussaint Loverture: A Black Jacobin
in the Age of Revolutions provides an accessible biography of one of the revolution’s most important characters. While the book is presented as a popular biography, the authors use Toussaint Loverture as a lens to explore the broader historical contexts that made the revolution possible, their expertise allows the authors to engage with the existing historiography and advance their interpretations, offering a balance between a broad summary and rigorous scholarship. For example, contrary to what other scholars have argued, the book presents the Haitian Revolution as profoundly democratic in its anti-colonial stance in the struggle for national self-determination … the book is an excellent introduction for students and anyone interested in the histories of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Age of Revolutions, more broadly.

Jorell Meléndez Badillo, Anarchist Studies, 27, 1 (2019).

The text is ultimately a useful compilation of the existing work on
Louverture and on revolutionary history, as well as a meditation on the idea
of revolution itself. For readers interested in learning more about Haitian
independence and about the figure of Louverture, this biography animated
with lively prose would be an excellent starting point. To supplement
Louverture’s literary legacy, the authors also include eight contemporary
images in color by various artists of Toussaint and other historical figures,
adding a useful artistic component to the text.

Nanar Khamo, Paroles gelées, 31 (2018).

The dossier of plates of images relating to Toussaint Louverture that are featured in the work include pieces by the artists Edouard Duval-Carrié, François Cauvin, Ulrick Jean-Pierre, Lubaina Himid (winner of the 2017 Turner Prize), Kimathi Donkor, Charlot Lucien, and Haitian murals paying tribute to Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines (the murals courtesy of Pablo Butcher, author of Urban Vodou: Politics and Popular Street Art in Haiti). 

Read an extract from the book online:

Buy the book from the UK publisher:

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Paperback | 9780745335148|£12.99 / $20

Hardback | 9780745335155| £50/ $80

Kindle | 9781786800305|£12.99 / $20

EPUB | 9781786800299|£12.99 / $20

PDF | 9781786800282| £60 / $90

You can listen to the book launch held at Marxism 2017 in London online here:

You can also listen to Charles and myself being interviewed about the book on KPFA radio here:

and read an interview with Charles and myself on the Public Archive about Haitian revolutionary studies here:

Revolutions and Revisions: An Interview with Charles Forsdick and Christian Høgsbjerg