Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853?) was born a slave in Haiti (then Saint Domingue) and came to New York City in 1787 with the family of Pierre Berard. After becoming a successful hairdresser, Toussaint supported the Berard family and bought the freedom of many slaves. A devout Roman Catholic, Toussaint contributed to Catholic schools and orphanages, was a founding member of the first French Catholic Church in New York City, and helped poor black youths and the victims of yellow fever. In 1951 a petition was begun for his canonization. Collection consists of Toussaint's correspondence and other papers. Correspondence, 1793-1853, is with friends and relatives in the U.S., France and the Caribbean. Also included are letters and poems, 1822-1829, from his niece and ward, Euphemie, and manumission papers of several slaves whose freedom Toussaint had arranged.
Content: The Toussaint papers are comprised largely of Toussaint's correspondence with friends and relatives the United States, the Caribbean and France, including Fanny Montpensier, Jean Sorbieu and Raymond de Meetz. There are many requests for financial assistance and thanks for favors extended, as well as personal letters from Mary Anna Schuyler, Robert Schuyler, and Asa Briggs. Also included are letters and poems from Toussaint's niece and ward Euphemie (1815-1829), chronicling the life of a young girl in New York City in the first quarter of the 19th century. There are also the manumission papers of several slaves whose freedom Toussaint arranged.
Biographical/historical: Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) was born a slave in Haiti (then Saint Domingue) and came to New York City in 1787 with the family of Pierre Berard. The Berard family was impoverished by the loss of their property in Haiti, and Toussaint, apprenticed to a hairdresser, became the sole supporter of the household. Mer Berard died in Haiti in 1790 at tempting to regain his property, and Toussaint continued to support his wife and her second husband, Gabriel Nicholas. Toussaint became the most successful hairdresser of his day (a lucrative position) and as such became intimate the Schuylers, Hamiltons and Churches, as well as other prominent New York families. His profitable trade supported the Berard-Nicholas household, and bought the freedom of many slaves (including that of his wife Juliette Noel, 1781-1851). Toussaint was a devout Catholic and contributed to many Catholic schools and orphanages, as well-as being a member of Old Saint Patricks (on Mott Street, dedicated in 1815) and a founding member Saint Vincent de Paul, the first French Catholic Church in the city. He also provided financial support for many orphans, and paid for the education of poor black youths as well as several impoverished white seminarians. He also cared for the many victims of yellow fever which struck New York City every August. In 1951 a petition was begun for the canonization of Pierre Toussaint.
Acquisition: March 1903, Received from Miss Georgina Schuyler