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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Author Thomas Oliver Ott speaks with Ardain Isma

Ardain and Tom a 1Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine

Last week, it was an honor to sit down and have a conversation with author Thomas Oliver Ott. He is the author of a compelling historical novel titled Saturday and the Witch Woman. What makes this story so fascinating is the time and place the story begins. It all begins in the French colony of Saint Domingue during the night of August 22, 1791, also known as the night of fire—the first organized resistance against slavery on the island and the beginning of the Haitian revolution. A lot of plantations are set ablaze, and hundreds of French settlers flee—many with their slaves. In the middle of this chaos, a slave named Saturday manages to save the lives of two white boys.

What makes the story so intriguing is that Saturday lives in a plantation not far from Breda plantation where Toussaint Louverture lives. He is able to flee with the boys with the help of Toussaint who secures his passage to Cap-Français (now Cap-Haitien) where he is to board a ship that will take him and the boys to Charleston, South Carolina where they land in early September of 1791.

As a slave, Saturday speaks 7 languages, and like Toussaint, he is educated by Jesuit priests and plantation manager Bayon de Libertad. Saturday, whose original name could very well be Samedi which is still a common name on the island, has great survival skills, and those skills help him a lot when he arrives in Charleston along with many former slaves from Saint Domingue. They are called the French Negros despised by the white society. According to the author, while slave owners and local authorities are in love with the French revolution, they hate the Haitian revolution which has shown the world that slavery—the most hideous form of human interaction—can indeed be defeated.

In 1822, Denmark Vesey—a freed man—leads a failed uprising in Charleston. He is later captured and killed. As a result, many Negros in the city are being hunted down. Saturday escapes to Cuba.

Thomas Ott pens this beautiful story with a unique form of authenticity. It is Saturday who tells his own story through a series of letters he sends from Cuba to the boys—now grown men and slave owners (ironically). Saturday talks a lot about Toussaint, for they live together in the Saint Domingue plantation.

This novel is a joy to read. It gives a window to life in the late 18th century southern United States, as well as life in Cuba and in Saint Domingue.

Thomas Oliver Ott is a historian, Southeastern Latin Americanist, and a retired professor from the University of North Alabama where he taught for 40 years. Since 2010, he has devoted his life to writing. Haiti is his main concentration. In fact, in 1973, he published his first book titled “The Haitian Revolution,” which was critically acclaimed. Saturday and the With Woman is a joy to read. To get a copy of this beautiful story, you can click this link: Saturday . Also, if you want a signed copy, you can email Tom at thomasott330@yahoo.com

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