WASHINGTON (CMC) – The Haitian Revolution has been captured in a new exhibit here that features 15 rarely seen silkscreen prints about Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Haitian ex-slave turned general who led a revolution that ultimately wrested the Haiti from French control and ended slavery.
The exhibit being held at the Phillips Collection in Northwest Washington, called “To Haiti Let Us Go” – shows works from late African-American painter Jacob Lawrence, who created the series between 1986 and 1997.
It’s based on an earlier series of paintings Lawrence executed on the same topic in the 1930s, said Elsa Smithgall, the museum’s curator. The exhibit closes April 23.
The former French colony, with its massive coffee and sugar exports that relied on slave labor and used brutality to keep slaves in check, was the most profitable colony in the Americas by the 1760s, according to the US Department of State’s Office of the Historian.
L’Ouverture was born into slavery in 1743 in Haiti, and led a massive slave insurrection on the island against White planters in 1791.
Three years later, the French National Convention abolished slavery in France and in all of its colonies.
L’Ouverture rolled out a Haitian constitution in 1801 that declared him governor-general for life, but Napoleon Bonaparte sent troops to invade Haiti the next year in a failed attempt to restore French control and slavery to the country.
The Haitian Revolution persisted until after the Haitians defeated Napoleon’s army at the Battle of Vertieres in 1803.
The following year, Haiti became an independent state, and with it, the world’s first Black republic and the second country in the Americas, after the United States, to earn its independence.