Haiti was not yet born when Toussaint Louverture wrote his 1801 Constitution as governor-general of the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Louverture declared loyalty to the French Republic and displayed his independent power with a third article declaring, “Here, all men are born, live, and die, free and French.” This essay examines the fraught construction of a new black citizenship based on slave emancipation and empire at the heart of Louverture's 1801 Constitution. In particular, I examine Louverture's Constitution alongside French constitutions of the 1790s and early Haitian constitutions in terms of gendered language of marriage and the family. As Louverture sought to transform racial slavery of the past into black citizenship for the future by enforcing ideals of order, purity, and the family, he presented new, problematic ways of thinking about “blackness,” “Frenchness,” and a gendered sense of self that can inform our understanding of human rights debates today.

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