Slave Rebellion Reenactment

Dread Scott (US)

On to New Orleans! Freedom or death! We’re going to end slavery! Join Us!

Hundreds of reenactors echoed these chants of self-liberated, formerly enslaved people as they marched to seize Orleans territory in 1811. We were performing Slave Rebellion Reenactment (SRR), a community-engaged performance spanning 24 miles over two days, on the outskirts of New Orleans and culminating in the city itself.

 

Charles Deslondes, Gilbert, Marie Rose, and the many enslaved people who were part of the 1811 revolt are heroes: their vision, if known, can inspire many. Their rebellion is a profound “what if?” story. What would success have meant for US and world history? Understanding that the past was not predetermined allows people to dream “what if?” for the future.

 

Our reenactment restaged and reinterpreted Deslondes’ Uprising of 1811—the largest rebellion of enslaved people in US history, which took place upriver from New Orleans. SRR animated a suppressed history of people with a bold plan to organize, take up arms and seize Orleans Territory, to fight not just for their own emancipation, but to end slavery. It was a project about freedom.

Over 300 Black and indigenous people, many on horses, armed with prop machetes, sickles and muskets, flags flying, in 19th century garments, singing in English and Creole to African drumming marched in formation.

 

The procession was jarringly out of place as we advanced past the gated communities, mobile homes, fast food restaurants, and oil refineries which have replaced the slave labor camps (sugar plantations) of 200 years ago. This historic anomaly formed a cognitive dissonance, opening space for viewers to rethink long held assumptions.

 

A key element of slave revolts was the organizing of small groups of trusted individuals, clandestinely plotting with others in small cells. Mirroring this structure, years long project recruitment took the form of one on one conversations about why this history is important in contemporary society.

On to New Orleans! Freedom or death! We’re going to end slavery! Join Us!

Hundreds of reenactors echoed these chants of self-liberated, formerly enslaved people as they marched to seize Orleans territory in 1811. We were performing Slave Rebellion Reenactment (SRR), a community-engaged performance spanning 24 miles over two days, on the outskirts of New Orleans and culminating in the city itself.

 

Charles Deslondes, Gilbert, Marie Rose, and the many enslaved people who were part of the 1811 revolt are heroes: their vision, if known, can inspire many. Their rebellion is a profound “what if?” story. What would success have meant for US and world history? Understanding that the past was not predetermined allows people to dream “what if?” for the future.

 

Our reenactment restaged and reinterpreted Deslondes’ Uprising of 1811—the largest rebellion of enslaved people in US history, which took place upriver from New Orleans. SRR animated a suppressed history of people with a bold plan to organize, take up arms and seize Orleans Territory, to fight not just for their own emancipation, but to end slavery. It was a project about freedom.

Over 300 Black and indigenous people, many on horses, armed with prop machetes, sickles and muskets, flags flying, in 19th century garments, singing in English and Creole to African drumming marched in formation.

 

The procession was jarringly out of place as we advanced past the gated communities, mobile homes, fast food restaurants, and oil refineries which have replaced the slave labor camps (sugar plantations) of 200 years ago. This historic anomaly formed a cognitive dissonance, opening space for viewers to rethink long held assumptions.

 

A key element of slave revolts was the organizing of small groups of trusted individuals, clandestinely plotting with others in small cells. Mirroring this structure, years long project recruitment took the form of one on one conversations about why this history is important in contemporary society.

www.slave-revolt.com

The project was presented by Antenna, a New Orleans Arts organization. Alongside the team at Antenna, the development of SRR was supported by many New Orleans organizations including Tulane University’s Center for the Gulf South, Xavier University, and RicRACK. Funding for SRR has been provided by Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, VIA Art Fund, Surdna Foundation, MAP Fund, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Nathan Cummings Foundation, A Blade of Grass, Art Matters, and an incredible group of 500+ individuals.

Dread Scott (US) is an interdisciplinary artist whose art encourages viewers to re-examine ideals of American society. In 1989, the US Senate outlawed his artwork and President Bush declared it “disgraceful” because of its transgressive use of the American flag. His work has been exhibited at The Whitney Museum, MoMA/PS1, The Walker Art Center, and in galleries and on street corners.  He is a 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and has also received fellowships from Open Society Foundations and United States Artists.

Dread Scott (US) is an interdisciplinary artist whose art encourages viewers to re-examine ideals of American society. In 1989, the US Senate outlawed his artwork and President Bush declared it “disgraceful” because of its transgressive use of the American flag. His work has been exhibited at The Whitney Museum, MoMA/PS1, The Walker Art Center, and in galleries and on street corners.  He is a 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow and has also received fellowships from Open Society Foundations and United States Artists.