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D. Augustus Straker (David Augustus), d. 1908
Reflections on the Life and Times of Toussaint L'Overture, the Negro Haytien, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Ruler under the Dominion of France, and Author of The Independence of Hayti
Columbia, S.C.: Charles A. Calvo, Jr., Printer and Bookbinder, 1886.

Summary

David Augustus Straker (1842-1908), a native of Barbados, immigrated to the United States in 1868 and rose to prominence as a politician and activist for civil rights. After graduating from Howard Law School in 1871, Straker moved to South Carolina, where he practiced law. He began his political career there by winning a Republican seat to the State House of Representatives in 1876. Although he was elected for a total of three terms, Straker was never able to serve, because of disputes surrounding the election results. In 1882, Straker was appointed dean and professor at Allen University's Law School in Columbia, South Carolina. As a lawyer and activist in South Carolina and later in Detroit, Michigan, Straker played a significant role in several prominent cases involving African Americans and their attempts to achieve social and political equality. He was a founder and the first president of the National Federation of Colored Men of the United States (1895), which was a forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He also published several influential essays on the topic of civil rights.

One of Straker's best-known works is Reflections on the Life and Times of Toussaint L'Overture (1886), which he wrote not only as a narrative of L'Ouverture's life, but also as a way to demonstrate black potential. Pierre Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture was a Haitian slave born around 1745. He and other slaves secured their freedom during the insurrection of 1791, an uprising of slaves against their owners during the French occupation of the island. Following this struggle, Napoleon Bonaparte appointed L'Ouverture Commander-in-Chief of the colony. Straker provides examples to demonstrate L'Ouverture's justice, integrity, and other leadership qualities. Straker attributes the subsequent French aggression towards L'Ouverture and the Haitians, which led to the capture and death of L'Ouverture and his family, to Bonaparte's fear of L'Ouverture. Because of his bravery and loyalty to his country, Straker deemed L'Ouverture the "greatest negro that ever lived before or since his time."

Please note: Straker spells the second surname "L'Overture," but the preferred spelling is L'Ouverture.

Works Consulted: Andrews, William L., Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris, eds., The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997; Logan, Rayford W. and Michael R. Winston, Dictionary of American Negro Biography, New York: Norton, 1982.

Monique Prince

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