Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: American Uprising

By Daniel Rasmussen

In January 1811 nearly five hundred slaves of Louisiana’s German Coast, some dressed in military uniforms rebelled against their white owners.  They carried with them guns, cane knives and axes, and slowly marched down the Mississippi River toward New Orleans.  The 1811 slave revolt has nearly been forgotten, overshadowed by other more famous historical events such as Nat Turner’s rebellion and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.  But despite its lack of scholarly attention the 1811 German Coast slave revolt was the largest slave rebellion in American History.

Author, Daniel Rasmussen, in his book “American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt,” unearths the tale of the all but forgotten rebellion, long buried under the sediment of two hundred years of American History, and places it in its rightful historical context.

Mr. Rasmussen demonstrates how the Southern states’ domination of political power in the country’s first decades was largely based in the country’s idea of its own manifest destiny.  As the Northern states grew more populous and industrialized, expansion Southern territory and agriculture was needed to insure the continuation of its political influence.  With each new territorial acquisition the growth of South’s agrarian culture, spurred a corresponding growth in the plantation work force.  As more land came into cultivation more slaves were required to work in the fields.

Slave society, Mr. Rasmussen points out, did not exist in a communication vacuum.  Information flowed by various methods from plantation to plantation, and to the outlying communities or runaway slaves in the Louisiana swamps.  Thus the method by which the seeds of revolution were sown.

There is little evidence left of the leaders of the 1811 rebellion, Charles Deslonde, Harry Kenner, Kook, and Quamanna, but Mr. Rasmussen does an excellent job of stitching together the sparse records of the revolt and its participants and weaves a flowing, easily read, account of the rebellion, which yielded a gruesome harvest of headless rotting corpses and a trail of slave heads mounted on pikes along the Louisiana banks of the Mississippi River.

ISBN 978-0061995217, Harper, © 2011, Hardcover, 288 pages, 1 Map, End Notes, Bibliography & Index. $26.99.  Click HERE to purchase.

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