The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 53, Issue 1

Article 4
“A Very Curious Game”: The Racialized Public Diplomacy of Toussaint Louverture in the United States

Ronald A. Johnson


US newspapers introduced American readers to Toussaint Louverture as a military leader charging into battle and a protector of white people in war-torn Saint-Domingue. Louverture worked to cultivate such images across the Atlantic world to allay white American fears of black violence, stoked by racial biases and slanted US print coverage of the Haitian Revolution. Following his arrest, deportation, and death, white Americans remained fascinated by the life of the famous revolutionary leader. This essay argues that Louverture shaped the news carried to the United States of America for consumption by white Americans as part of strategic public diplomacy. It details the efforts Louverture employed from 1795 to 1802 to portray his evolving roles in Hispaniola in such a way that encouraged white Americans to contemplate bilateral relations with an independent nation of black people in the Caribbean.