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Thomas J. Shelley

Toussaint, Pierre (1766–30 June 1853), businessman and philanthropist, was born a slave in the French colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti). Little is known of his early life except that, like his mother and maternal grandmother, he spent his youth as a house slave on a plantation in the Artibonite Valley in central Haiti near the port of Saint Marc. In the library of the plantation owner, Pierre Bérard, young Toussaint discovered the works of classical French preachers such as Bossuet and Massillon. Apparently it was from his reading of these sermons, rather than from any contact with the notoriously corrupt local clergy, that Toussaint developed his deep devotion to the Catholic faith.

In 1787 as political conditions on the island deteriorated Jean Jacques Bérard who had inherited his father s estate left Saint Domingue for New York accompanied by his wife Pierre Toussaint and four other slaves ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born in Haiti, Pierre Toussaint was a slave until 1809. After his owners moved from Haiti to New York City in 1787 he was apprenticed to a New York hairdresser Toussaint eventually developed his own thriving career and supported his widowed mistress and her daughter with his ...

Article

David N. Gellman

Pierre Toussaint was a singular, yet elusive figure. The quality of his life moved some to call for his beatification as a Catholic saint in the twentieth century. His motivations and commitments as a historical figure—including his place in the history of free black life in antebellum New York City—are harder to pin down. Although he made monetary contributions to African American causes in New York and elsewhere, many of the most noteworthy beneficiaries of his assistance and sympathy were whites, with whom he forged unusually cordial connections during an era of increasing segregation and racial hostility.

Toussaint was born a slave in the French sugar colony of Saint Domingue; his year of birth has traditionally been listed as 1766, but a 1995 reassessment estimates 1778 as a more likely date, while another biographer proposes 1781 as Toussaint s birth year His mother and grandmother were house slaves ...