Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Play in Three Acts

Duke University Press. Durham and London 2013

In 1934 CLR James wrote the play Toussaint L’Ouverture: The Story of the Only Slave Revolt in History, which was presumed lost until the rediscovery of a draft copy in 2005. The play’s production, performed in 1936 at London’s Westminster Theatre with a cast including the American star Paul Robeson, marked the first time black professional actors starred on the British stage in a play written by a black playwright. This edition includes the program, photographs and reviews from that production, a contextual introduction and editorial notes on the play by Christian Hogsbjerg, and selected essays and letters by James and others. Toussaint L’Ouverture is an indispensable companion work to The Black Jacobins (1938), James’s classic account of Haiti’s revolutionary struggle for liberation.

“The text of this nearly forgotten drama, succinctly introduced to today’s readers with a valuable set of accompanying essays, is an invaluable contribution to Pan-African studies and our understanding of ‘the Black Plato’ as a remarkably talented black playwright. CLR James readers, and not only those of The Black Jacobins, will rejoice.” – Paul Buhle, authorized biographer, author of CLR James: The Artist as Revolutionary

“Long legendary throughout the diaspora, the first version of CLR James’s play about Toussaint L’Ouverture finally emerges from the archives. This play is the production that united James with his friend Paul Robeson on the London stage. It was an extraordinary event at the time – witness the contemporary reviews added to this publication – and it is no less extraordinary today. In addition to reviews, this edition also reprints valuable early statements from James and Robeson. It is a singular; one might even say Olympian, volume with much to teach us all.” – Aldon Lynn Nielsen, author of CLR James: A Critical Introduction and Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation

This book is available to purchase here.


Revolution on stage by Scott McLemee

Christian Høgsbjerg’s Toussaint Louverture by Raphael Dalleo

CLR James and Toussaint by Rickey Singh

Toussaint Louverture by C.L.R. James by Gaverne Bennett