Monday, June 6, 2011

Pierre Toussaint: An Enslaved Saint from Tribeca

Pierre Toussaint

Pierre Toussaint came to New York from Haiti in 1787. He was enlisted as an apprentice to one of the city's leading hairdressers. Tousling had a talent for the complicated art of coiffure. The hairstyles of that day were elaborate and hairdresser's fees were quiet substantial. It was not unusual for a lady of fashion to spend over a thousand dollars yearly on the care of her hair. With his skill, courteous and cheerful manner and quiet wit, it was not long before Toussaint had many clients.

Black and white people in need of money to survive, to purchase freedom from slavery, all found a generous and openhearted friend in Pierre Toussaint. He not only provided money, but manifested genuine care and concern for the afflicted.

Pierre Toussaint purchased Juliet Noel's freedom when she was only fifteen years old. Later, as his wife, she shared in his secret and generous charity. Their home was a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency and refuge for priest and poverty stricken travelers. Proud to be Black, Toussaint generously assisted his black brothers and sisters zealously to support the Oblate Sisters of Providence, a religious Orders of Black ladies established in Baltimore. Pierre Toussaint was also a benefactor of the First New York City Catholic school for Black children at St. Vincent de Paul on Canal Street.

In his later years, Toussaint still worked to help others. One of his clients advised him, "Toussaint, you are the richest man I know, why not stop working?" He replied, The I should not have enough to help others, madam." Two years later after his wife's death, Pierre Toussaint died on June 30, 1853, at the age of eighty-seven. He was buried along side his wife and daughter, Euphemia in Old St. Patrick's cemetery on Mott Street. Authorities are presenting gathering material with the hope of presenting Pierre Toussaint's cause for beatification. (http://www.nbccongress.org/black-catholics/pierre-toussaint-famous-blacks.asp)

Pierre Toussaint: A Saint from Tribeca

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