Born a slave. His master, Jean Berard, taught Pierre to read and write, and when Berard moved to New York in 1787, he took along several slaves, including Pierre and his sister Rosalie. There Pierre was apprenticed to a leading hairdresser, and soon became a popular stylist himself. When Berard died, Pierre stayed on to care for the ailing widow; he was freed from slavery when Madame Berard died in 1807.
Working for himself, Pierre became wealthy. He fell in love with Juliette Noel, a 15 year old slave, and he purchased her, freed her, and married her. As the two took their faith seriously, they started work to help the poor in New York. They turned their own home into a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency, a hostel for priests and a other poor travellers. Pierre helped fund the construction of Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Though the couple never had children, when his sister Rosalie died, Pierre and Juliette adopted her daughter Euphemia. Widower in 1851. To his last days he worked tirelessly to help anyone who needed it.
- 30 June 1853 in New York, New York of natural causes
- buried in Old Saint Patrick’s cemetery on Mott Street, New York
- the grave was re-discovered by Father Charles McTague as it had been abandoned and ignored
- exhumed and re-interred in the crypt below the altar in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, 5th Avenue, New York in 1990
- “Venerable Pierre Toussaint“. CatholicSaints.Info. 6 October 2016. Web. 26 February 2017. <>