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Richard S. Newman

leading citizen of color in nineteenth-century New York City, was born enslaved in 1766 in French colonial Saint Domingue Pierre was owned by Jean Berard a sugar planter who resided outside of Saint Marc in the western section of the prosperous French colony Pierre came of age in a colony dominated by bondage and death with masters importing as many as 30 000 enslaved people each year by the second half of the eighteenth century to replenish depleted plantations However Pierre was utilized predominantly as a household servant A talented and precocious lad he acquired literacy skills as well as a courtly sensibility which he maintained for the rest of his life in and out of slavery Though Berard family lore claims credit for encouraging Pierre s talents it may have been his enslaved grandmother Zenobie a wet nurse and household servant who had accompanied Bernard s eldest son ...

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 ...

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Thomas J. Shelley

hairdresser, businessman, and philanthropist, was born a slave in the French colony of Saint Domingue (later Haiti). The names of his parents are unknown. 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 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. The main source for information on Toussaint's life is his autobiography, Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Born a Slave in Saint Domingo, which was published anonymously by Hannah Lee Sawyer a contemporary ...

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 ...