American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, by Daniel Rasmussen, Harper, RRP$26.99, 288 pages
In January 1811, 500 slaves in Louisiana rose up and marched on New Orleans. It was the largest act of armed resistance against slavery in antebellum America, but has been strangely overlooked.
Daniel Rasmussen sets out to redress what he calls a “vast collective amnesia” concerning the episode, offering a detailed account of the revolt and its wider consequences for the American south. The author argues that the slaves must be understood as “politically aware and highly organised” revolutionaries, whose struggle for liberation has been unfairly consigned to the footnotes of history by scholars with axes to grind.
Rasmussen’s narrative has a breadth and sweep reminiscent of The Black Jacobins, CLR James’s classic study of the successful slave insurrection that led to Haitian independence in 1804. Unlike that rebellion, the Louisiana uprising was brutally suppressed; this important book ensures that it will no longer be forgotten.