Over the past fifteen years Verso has developed a list of distinguished graphic novels, among them Kate Evans’s Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg, Spain Rodriguez’s Che: A Graphic Biography, and Mike de Seve and Daniel Burwen’s Operation Ajax: The Story of the CIA Coup that Remade the Middle East. Verso’s graphic list aims to bring radical history alive with imaginative visual storytelling by gifted artists.
The newest addition to the Verso graphic list is Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History, with words by C.L.R. James, the legendary Trinidadian historian, and art by the hugely talented Nic Watts and Sakina Karimjee. The book was acquired and edited by former Verso editor Andy Hsiao. We are grateful to the estate of C.L.R. James for their collaboration on this marvelous book.
The polymath intellectual and revolutionary James is best known as the author of the seminal history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins, published in 1938. The text of Toussaint Louverture comes from a play James wrote about the Haitian Revolution and its incredible leader before publication of his celebrated work of history. The play was produced at London’s Westminster Theatre in 1936, starring Paul Robeson in the title role. The performance marked the first time black professional actors starred on the British stage in a play written by a black playwright. James’s script had been lost for almost seventy years when a draft copy was discovered among his archives.
The text of Toussaint Louverture reproduces James’s script faithfully and fully. The dialogue of the play lends itself perfectly to adaptation as a graphic novel and is here beautifully illustrated.
The story of the Haitian revolution is one of the great revolutionary stories of modern history. And this graphic novel is a gorgeously drawn rendering of the events. In 1791, the enslaved people of the most prized French sugar plantation colony revolted against their masters. For over twelve years, against a backdrop of the French Revolution, they fought an epic black liberation struggle for control of the island. Theirs was the first and only successful slave revolution. It was the creation of Haiti as a nation, the first independent black republic outside of Africa, and an international inspiration to the persecuted and enslaved.
We are proud to bring this imaginative graphic adaptation of C.L.R. James’s play by Nic Watts and Sakina Karimjee to readers around the world. As Joe Sacco says, the art is “fantastic and the energy palpable on every page.” The book vividly brings to life and honors what is probably the greatest victory of the oppressed over the oppressors in all of history.
–Kelly Burdick, US Editorial Director,
Brooklyn, November 2023
Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in HistoryC.L.R. James (illustrated by Sakina Karimjee and Nic Watts) is one of our December Verso Book Club reads. Find out more about the Verso Book Club here.
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