Louisiana has a dark past. One inevitably intertwined with the history of enslavement, brutality and death. Many stories remain lost, undiscovered or hidden; when I visited Destrehan Plantation, 40-50 miles from that vibrant, soulful city of New Orleans, I learned about a little-known slave revolt in 1811. I had never heard of this, despite researching the theme of slave revolts for a university essay. After my visit I purchased a book by Daniel Rasmussen, which I have just devoured in the last few days in my lunch hour. It is an amazing book, and it should be on every university reading list for American history. Rasmussen not only describes the revolt in detail, but also weaves together its consequences with the history of American expansion and how African American history is remembered through a filtered lens.
This injustice deserves to be righted. These men fought for freedom and equality, and were prepared to die for it. But why have these men been forgotten? Rasmussen makes the point that the non-violent Martin Luther King has been remembered but men like Deslondes – who challenged the status quo – do not fit with American ideals and thus, ignored. Deslondes and his army were freedom fighters and Rasmussen puts them in context with other powerful black figures who tried to seize their freedom – like the black slaves who fled plantations when the Union army came to the Louisiana shore, or those who fought in the black regiments in the Union. This book strikes at the very heart of the debates within American society – over the hypocrisy of American society, its willingness to hide those who are not ‘safe’ to remember and above all what Americans were prepared to do to protect their ‘domestic institution’ = slavery.