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Ancient Slavery and AbolitionFrom Hobbes to Hollywood$
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Richard Alston, Edith Hall, and Justine McConnell

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199574674

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574674.001.0001

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Universal Slave Revolts

Universal Slave Revolts

C. L. R. James’s use of Classical Literature in The Black Jacobins

(p.353) 12 Universal Slave Revolts
Ancient Slavery and Abolition

Lydia Langerwerf

Oxford University Press

The Trinidadian radical C.L.R. James' The Black Jacobins. Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938) was one of the foundation texts of the Civil Rights movement in the USA and subsequently of Panafricanism. This chapter analyses his portrayal of Toussaint L'Ouverture, revealing how James' view of history was informed by his studies of slave revolts and his love of heroic drama. His presentation of the Haitian rebel hero is compared with the representations of two slave rebels from antiquity: Pausanias’ depiction of the mythical hero Aristomenes of Messene in the Periegesis, and Athenaeus’ use of the story of Drimakos, who leads a successful revolt against the Chians and founds a maroon community. Traditional narrative tropes in James' shaping of history are revealed, and the reading is further inflected by James' stated views on the nature of the Aeschylean and Shakespearean tragic hero.

Keywords:   Toussaint L’Ouverture, C.L.R. James, Haiti, slave revolt, Pausanias, hero

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