Embodying the Largest Slave Revolt in American History

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.

Visit our current kickstarter campaign to watch a 3min video that details the project.

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About the Organizers

Dread Scott

Dread Scott

Lead Artist

Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. In 1989, the entire US Senate denounced…

Imani J. Brown

Imani J. Brown

Antenna Director of Programs

Imani Jacqueline Brown is a New Orleans native, artist, activist, and researcher. She believes that art…

Bob Snead

Bob Snead

Antenna Executive Director

Bob Snead is a native of Charleston, SC where he founded Redux Contemporary Art Center…

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Resources

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.

  • On to New Orleans, Albert Thrasher—This is the original book that presents the first substantial research of the 1811 revolt—years before the later bestseller American Uprising. On to New Orleans is published by Leon Waters and is currently available directly from him: leonawaters8@gmail.com. Price is $30 + $4 shipping charge.
  • Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Walter Johnson—An important exploration of a slave market, both as a physical location where slaves are sold, but also market, as in stock market.
  • Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, Bob Avakian. This book looks squarely at
    how slavery is foundational to America and how the political, legal, philosophical and
    economic base from America's founding is rooted in oppression and exploitation and
    how that legacy is inextricably woven into America at present.
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner — As told to Thomas R. Gray. Not to be confused with the novel by William Styron. Available as free download here.
  • American Negro Slave Revolts , Herbert Aptheker—The substantive first recounting of slave revolts in the US. Written with the assumption that the slave revolts are just and fighting for emancipation
  • Slavery by Another Name: The Reenslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to WWI I, Douglas Blackmon—more on the legacy of slavery.
  • Fire on the Mountain , Terry Bisson — A cool scifi “what if” set in the future if John
    Brown and Harriet Tubman launched a successful war to end slavery.
  • Congo Square, African Roots in New Orleans , Freddi WIlliams Evans
  • Fragments of the Peculiar Institution, Dread Scott. An artist book of Scott's research into slavery. Available exclusively on the SRR Kickstarter Campaign here.

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.

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Contact





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Partners & Contributors

Slave Rebellion Reenactment is/has been supported by several partners.
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, Smack Mellon

Fractured Atlas  Slave Rebellion Reenactment is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

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