Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Rasmussen provides the first book-length account of Louisiana's January 8, 1811, slave rebellion, the largest slave insurrection in US history; it was larger and far more destructive than the Nat Turner Rebellion. Against the backdrop of Carnival, slave driver-turned-rebel Charles Deslondes led an attack on the Manuel Andry plantation, killing the owner's son Gilbert. The slaves then gathered weapons, donned uniforms, and found recruits while marching southeast toward New Orleans. Ultimately, this uprising threatened the stability of the region's slave-based plantation system as well as jeopardized US control over the multi-ethnic territory. Territorial governor W. C. C. Claiborne called out the militia and requested army and naval forces to advance against the insurrectionists. Within two days, the bloody revolt had been squelched. During the following weeks, trials found more than 100 slaves guilty of insurrection and punished them by decapitation. The heads of former slaves on pikes along the River Road served as a stark reminder of the price of insurrection. While Rasmussen should be commended for his description of the revolt, linking it with the US Civil War seems forced at best. Summing Up: Recommended. General collections and public libraries. G. A. Smith Texas Christian University
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Rasmussen's auspicious debut (he graduated from Harvard in 2009) is the first book-length account of a large-scale, three-day slave revolt on the sugar plantations near New Orleans during the 1811 Carnival (Mardi Gras) season. The author argues that the slave-rebels, who had learned warfare tactics in their native Africa, were inspired by the successful Haitian revolution. These were not common criminals but political revolutionaries, contrary to the scant historical accounts of those eager to squash threats to the South's slave-reliant economy and deter its western expansion. Rasmussen, who boldly interjects opinions and conjecture into his narrative rather than allowing readers to come to their own conclusions, paints the slave-rebels, especially their leaders, as heroes and martyrs for the cause of liberty, and the slave owners and white politicians as ruthless, greedy, and inept. With few reliable primary sources at his disposal, he fills out his work with thorough historical context and vivid descriptions of the radically different daily lives of slaves and planters in antebellum Louisiana. VERDICT This is a welcome addition to popular history and an engaging read for anyone interested in this important chapter in the tragic story of American slavery. Scholars may have concerns about Rasmussen's rather heavy-handed characterizations.-Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
When Americans think of slave rebellions, Nat Turner and John Brown come to mind, but the largest armed resistance to slavery in U.S. history was commanded by Kook, Quamana, Harry Kenner, and Charles Deslondes. The four led an army of several hundred slaves in 1811 to revolt against plantation masters and to march on New Orleans. Historian Rasmussen details the political climate of the time, including French sugar plantation owners destabilized by efforts of the U.S. government to Americanize the region, threats from nearby Spanish-held territories, and the recent slave revolts in Haiti, 6,000 miles away. The slaves were emboldened by Haiti and aided by a cosmopolitan mix of ethnic groups Africans, Native Americans, people of mixed race, slaves, and Maroons who enjoyed fairly free movement around the area. Rasmussen details the history and politics of the region, the revolt itself, and the vengeful reprisals that followed, including efforts to rewrite the history of the revolt. Readers will appreciate not just the historic recollection of the attempt to overcome the oppression of slavery but also the more recent developments that have recovered it from obscurity.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist
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This study of a January 1811 slave uprising and march on New Orleans exhumes the deliberately obscured and "largest act of armed resistance against slavery in the history of the United States." Historian Rasmussen expands on scarce source material to provide a complex context for a revolt that dwarfed such better-known rebellions as Nat Turner's and Denmark Vesey's, a stealthily organized uprising of 500 armed slaves dressed in military uniforms marching on and trying to conquer New Orleans. The author ties together diverse political, economic, and cultural threads in describing the rise (and brutal suppression) of the "ethnically diverse, politically astute, and highly organized" army, and investigates why this "story more Braveheart than Beloved" was consigned to historical footnote. While the book's ambition occasionally exceeds its grasp, it vividly evokes the atmosphere of New Orleans of the early 19th century and how a recalcitrant, French-rooted Louisiana and some Spanish possessions in the Deep South were incorporated into the expanding American nation though brutal revenge justice and political pressures. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.