Slave Rebellion Reenactment is a community-based performance that will restage and reinterpret Louisiana’s Revolt of 1811. This was the largest rebellion of enslaved people in North American history and took place outside of New Orleans. SRR will animate a suppressed history of people with an audacious plan to organize, take up arms and seize Orleans Territory, to fight not just for their own emancipation, but to end slavery. It is a project about freedom.
The artwork will involve hundreds of re-enactors in period specific clothing marching for two days covering 26 miles. It will be reenacted upriver from New Orleans in the locations where the 1811 revolt occurred—the the chemical refineries, box stores, suburbs, and trailer parks that have replaced the sugar plantations forming its backdrop.
It will be an impressive and startling sight—500+ Black people, many on horses, armed with cane knives and muskets, flags flying, some in militia uniforms, others in 19th century French colonial garments, singing in Creole to African drumming. There was limited fighting during the 1811 rebellion, so, in contrast to many war reenactments, much of SRR will be a procession.
Of necessity, slave rebellions were clandestinely organized by small groups of individuals. Mirroring this structure, an integral part of the artwork will be “recruitment” / organizing meetings of multiple small groupings of participants to plan the reenactment. Videos of the meetings will be part of the artwork’s archive.
The project was conceived and initiated by Dread Scott.
Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. In 1989, the entire US Senate denounced…
Malcolm is a veteran revolutionary organizer who has lived in New Orleans for the past…
Imani Jacqueline Brown is a New Orleans native, artist, activist, and researcher. She believes that art…
The story of the 1811 revolt, and slave rebellions generally, is/are a powerful story of liberation with many lessons for the present. If you want to engage that history more fully, below is a list of resources I have been drawing on.
Dread has also been looking at how visual artists have approached slave and peasant uprising. In particular:
– Hale Woodruff (Amistad murals)
– Kathe Kollwitz (Peasant War series)
– Jacob Lawrence (Toussaint Louverture)
Slave Revolt in Jamaica 1760-1761, Vincent Brown. In this interactive web project, Brown presents an animated thematic map that narrates the spatial history of the greatest slave insurrection in the eighteenth century British Empire. It gives a complex view of the dynamics and fighting strategy of revolts.
Burn (Queimada). 1969 Italian & French film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and starring Marlon Brando and Evaristo Márquez. The fictional story focuses on the infighting between British and Portuguese colonial powers to occupy an island in the Caribbean. Brando plays a British secret government agent, who manipulates a slave revolt to serve the interests of the British sugar trade. The rebel slaves are the real heroes of the film.
We would also encourage anyone interested to visit New Orleans and take Leon Waters’ Hidden History Tour of the 1811 revolt.
Meanwhile, artists are diversifying their practices and reaping the benefits of critical recognition. Mark Bradford is representing the United States at the Venice Biennale; Dread Scott is reenacting a slave rebellion; Chris Ofili is creating the environmental vision for MCA Chicago’s new restaurant; and important emerging and established women artists are mounting their first solo institutional surveys.Victoria Valentine, Culture Type, January 2017
The Slave Rebellion Reenactment is an ambitious undertaking, a gathering of 500 people in period costume restaging and reinterpreting the largest rebellion of slaves in North American historyNicole Rupersburg, Creative Exchange September 2016
As recent fights over the Confederate Flag suggest, the past is far from dead. April marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, but New York artist Dread Scott wants to take you back even farther along in American history to that lesser-known 19th-century New Orleans slave uprising—the largest of its kind in what would become the United States.Brian Boucher, Artnet.com, September 2015
What if the German Coast Uprising had been successful? How would that have changed US history? But it also poses a much more important question: what if it is successful today? Tatiana Istomina, ArtFuse, August 2014
Slave Rebellion Reenactment is/has been supported by several partners.
Tulane's New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, A Blade of Grass Foundation, Socially Engaged Artist Fellowship , Antenna, Art Matters, The Givens Foundation for African American Literature, The Kindle Project, The Joan Mitchel Center, The MAP Fund/Creative Capital , The McColl Center for Art + Innovation, Open Society Foundation Documentary Photography Project Moving Walls Grant, Smack Mellon
Fractured Atlas Slave Rebellion Reenactment is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.