Reenacting America's Largest Slave Rebellion
On January 8, 1811, over 500 enslaved people took up arms in Louisiana to fight for freedom. Two centuries later, hundreds retrace their path to honor the memory of the largest slave rebellion in American History.
'The white perspective is really all that is told in history books'
On the night of January 8, 1811, over 500 enslaved people took up arms in Louisiana. No more chains. No more chains. Freedom is now. Freedom is now. They marched 26 miles from sugar plantations along the Mississippi River towards New Orleans with one goal: ending slavery. This was the largest slave rebellions in the U.S. – but it's largely ignored by history. 2 centuries later, hundreds of people retraced their path of the rebellion in a Slave Rebellion Reenactment led by artist Dread Scott.
“The rebellion began at a plantation in St. John the Baptist Parish, west of New Orleans. A dozen enslaved people attacked the plantation’s owner and his son, then set off on River Road towards the city. They recruited others on the way. I realized how much of a stigma and frankly a shame that many black people, particularly a lot of black college aged youth, had about being black because of how they were taught about slavery, how they think about enslavement. And when people learned that, you know, they're not the descendants of slaves, they're descendants of people who were enslaved and that there's been resistance the entire way, that has been very inspiring for them, and made them want to learn more about that. It really sort of shifts the understanding,” Dread Scott tells Brut.
The re-enactors marched between sites that were once plantations and are now petrochemical plants. The region is known as “Cancer Alley” because of the high cancer risk rates in the mostly black communities. While the 1811 rebellion was violently suppressed by a militia of plantation owners – the reenactment ended in a public celebration through the streets of New Orleans.