Presentation Title

Propaganda & the Impossible Black Female Body: The Tale of Suzanne Simone Baptiste Louverture

Faculty Mentor

Robin Mitchell

Start Date

17-11-2018 3:00 PM

End Date

17-11-2018 5:00 PM

Location

CREVELING 87

Session

POSTER 3

Type of Presentation

Poster

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

This project looks at the types of propaganda surrounding the alleged torture in 1804 of Suzanne Simone Baptiste – also known as Madame Toussaint Louverture – in France. Almost nothing has been written about Suzanne until a copy of a letter was published anonymously in London’s anti-slavery journal, the Christian Observer in November 1804 (supposedly taken verbatim?) from a letter (from a Madame Bernard, who allegedly met Madame Louverture in Saint-Domingue) dated 6 September 1804. The narrative of Madame L’Ouverture’s suffering – which expanded the spatial limits of this brutality (and her body) from France to Britain and spaces beyond – offered a stunning rebuttal to tentative French conversations about blacks being part of the French body politic. Simultaneously, the tale allowed different outside entities like the British press and satirists to spin the traumatic events surrounding the Haitian Revolution – calling into question French civilization – via the black body of Toussaint’s widow. The letter about the torture reappeared in France, England, the United States and Haiti. The minister of the French police, Joseph Fouché, thought the letter (or the accusations contained within it) important enough to directly comment upon its contents during one of his daily meetings with Napoleon; indeed, the mention to Napoleon speaks to the significance of the story at an elevated level, especially given the repeated commentary about the legitimacy or lack thereof of his Empire. But Britain took the lead in sharing this story, and that is where our research began. To date, no one has done any historical work about this letter, or the fallout that the letter generated.

Summary of research results to be presented

Our research indicated that the few instances where Suzanne Simone Baptiste has been included in histories tangential to her husband's narrative have been very limited in scope and have repeated many of the same false claims. Through our research, we were able to refute many of these errant claims and bring new information to Suzanne's history, not to mention the histories of France and Haiti.

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Nov 17th, 3:00 PM Nov 17th, 5:00 PM

Propaganda & the Impossible Black Female Body: The Tale of Suzanne Simone Baptiste Louverture

CREVELING 87

This project looks at the types of propaganda surrounding the alleged torture in 1804 of Suzanne Simone Baptiste – also known as Madame Toussaint Louverture – in France. Almost nothing has been written about Suzanne until a copy of a letter was published anonymously in London’s anti-slavery journal, the Christian Observer in November 1804 (supposedly taken verbatim?) from a letter (from a Madame Bernard, who allegedly met Madame Louverture in Saint-Domingue) dated 6 September 1804. The narrative of Madame L’Ouverture’s suffering – which expanded the spatial limits of this brutality (and her body) from France to Britain and spaces beyond – offered a stunning rebuttal to tentative French conversations about blacks being part of the French body politic. Simultaneously, the tale allowed different outside entities like the British press and satirists to spin the traumatic events surrounding the Haitian Revolution – calling into question French civilization – via the black body of Toussaint’s widow. The letter about the torture reappeared in France, England, the United States and Haiti. The minister of the French police, Joseph Fouché, thought the letter (or the accusations contained within it) important enough to directly comment upon its contents during one of his daily meetings with Napoleon; indeed, the mention to Napoleon speaks to the significance of the story at an elevated level, especially given the repeated commentary about the legitimacy or lack thereof of his Empire. But Britain took the lead in sharing this story, and that is where our research began. To date, no one has done any historical work about this letter, or the fallout that the letter generated.