Pierre Toussaint was a Haitian-American hairdresser, philanthropist, and former slave brought to New York City by his owners in 1787. Freed in 1807 after the death of his mistress, Pierre took the surname of "Toussaint" in honor of the hero of the Haitian Revolution. In 1996, he was declared "Venerable" by Pope John Paul II.
After his marriage in 1811 to Juliette Noel, Toussaint and his wife opened their home as an orphanage, employment bureau, and a refuge for travelers. He also contributed funds and helped raise money to build Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street. He was considered "one of the leading black New Yorkers of his day." His ghostwritten memoir, Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, was published in 1854.
Toussaint is the first layperson to be buried in the crypt below the main altar of Saint Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, generally reserved for bishops of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.