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LAPLACE, LOUISIANA– This past Friday, hundreds of actors participated in a 26-mile large-scale performance of the largest rebellion of enslaved people in the United States. The entire reenactment is part of the vision of New York artist Dread Scott, a renown social activist.
The 1811 German Coast Uprising began with the sweetness of sugar cane and bitterness of blood. January 8th, 1811– the rebellion would begin along the Mississippi river in the river parishes of Louisiana in present day Laplace. Led by Charles Deslonde, the rebellion was an act of defiance that challenged the institution of Louisiana slavery and frightened the city of New Orleans just 20 miles away. The Rebellion was inspired by the Haitian revolt, which in turn was inspired by the French Revolution. It is rumored that some of the slaves had copies of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man in their cabins. The goal was to travel from plantation to plantation on a mission to seize freedom.
“We have big shoes to fill and we need to actually learn from their story and I think stepping into the footsteps of the enslaved is a real challenge for how we get free today. There were two key challenges in recreating slave rebellion reenactment, one was stitching together a community and then also fundraising. I mean this is a project that doesn’t have have a big museum supporting it and we needed to raise over a million dollars to do it. That is why it took six years,” says Scott.
“The story of this narrative is that Africans and people of African descent were fighting for freedom and emancipation. We’ve always been doing it. There are over 250 documents of slave revolts in United States history alone. They had a vision of not only striking back but throwing the system of enslavement by seizing Orleans territory and setting up a republic that slavery would have been eliminated in. It was a profound idea for freedom and emancipation,” says Scott.
“I’m super excited that i’ve created a space that many people, in particular, a lot of black people feel they can express freedom and emancipation and embody this history. It’s really touching and the fact that we are looking back at this history in 2019, 208 years later is a testament to the success they had then,” says Scott.
The reenactment started in Laplace Friday and ended in New Orleans Saturday in Congo Square with a celebration. Artist Dred Scott wants to invite conversation, the country celebrates the 400th year anniversary of the arrival of the first slave ships in America.