Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Guest Review: American Uprising

Summary: A gripping and deeply revealing history of an infamous slave rebellion that nearly toppled New Orleans and changed the course of American history
In January 1811, five hundred slaves, dressed in military uniforms and armed with guns, cane knives, and axes, rose up from the plantations around New Orleans and set out to conquer the city. Ethnically diverse, politically astute, and highly organized, this self-made army challenged not only the economic system of plantation agriculture but also American expansion. Their march represented the largest act of armed resistance against slavery in the history of the United States. 

American Uprising is the riveting and long-neglected story of this elaborate plot, the rebel army's dramatic march on the city, and its shocking conclusion. No North American slave uprising—not Gabriel Prosser's, not Denmark Vesey's, not Nat Turner's—has rivaled the scale of this rebellion either in terms of the number of the slaves involved or the number who were killed. More than one hundred slaves were slaughtered by federal troops and French planters, who then sought to write the event out of history and prevent the spread of the slaves' revolutionary philosophy. With the Haitian revolution a recent memory and the War of 1812 looming on the horizon, the revolt had epic consequences for America. 

Through groundbreaking original research, Daniel Rasmussen offers a window into the young, expansionist country, illuminating the early history of New Orleans and providing new insight into the path to the Civil War and the slave revolutionaries who fought and died for justice and the hope of freedom. -- Harper

Booking Pap Pap is back with another great review. Since I'm not a big reader of non-fiction (and especially history) books, I decided to pass AMERICAN UPRISING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA'S LARGEST SLAVE REVOLT by Daniel Rasmussen on to him. Here are his thoughts:

In AMERICAN UPRISING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA'S LARGEST SLAVE REVOLT, author Daniel Rasmussen shares with the reader explicit details of the 1811 slave revolt in the sugar plantations near New Orleans. According to the author’s research, several hundred slaves led by Charles Deslondes, a black slave-driver and two slaves, Quamana and Kook, attempted a revolt to establish a black republic along the Mississippi River. The leaders used as their motivation the establishment in 1801of a free black republic in Haiti. The uprising was quickly put down by a contingent of federal agents and plantation owners resulting in the death of an estimated 100 slaves whose mutilated bodies were left in view as a reminder of the revolt’s failure.

Rasmussen tells this story in the context of the 19th century American South with its economic, political and social complexities of slavery and race. Time and again he reminds the reader of the atrocities of slavery. However, he goes much further by placing this event in the larger picture of American history. A few years earlier the United States had completed the Louisiana Purchase and was beginning to flex its muscles as a new nation concentrating on expanding its borders. Rasmussen briefly discusses the takeover of Spanish West Florida, the mistreatment of the American Indians, the assault on Spanish Florida and the U. S. annexation of Texas during this period. The author’s accounts of these events leave no doubt that he did not consider the period from 1803 to 1836 as one of the bright spots of American history. Rasmussen also briefly touches on how these expansions ultimately led to the Civil War and describes the slave’s role in the outcome of the War.

Rasmussen advocates that this revolt had been downplayed as a criminal uprising rather than a political revolution because it suited the politics of racism at the time. Rasmussen is critical of historians who accepted this viewpoint up until World War II without examining the uprising further. He expresses a strong opinion that the original official account of the revolt was motivated by American desire for expansion and control. In the Epilogue, Rasmussen uses a modern example to show that even today, like it 1811, we have a tendency to avoid discussing events that upset the comfortable positions we take as a nation.

AMERICAN UPRISING is a well researched story about a relatively little known piece of our history. Rasmussen does a very good job of simplifying the complex nature of the issues for the reader. However, in my opinion, it is questionable whether the revolt carried the long term impact that Rasmussen asserts. Nevertheless his story awakens the reader to a period of American imperialism and racism that all of us should be aware of.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history.

Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his review and thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I think the long-term impact was more in terms of the repercussions of the revolt than the revolt itself. But I would say his biggest point is that the revolt has been pretty much omitted from history books. I loved this book, because it's so great for me when a history book is written like an exciting suspense story! Great review, as always!

bermudaonion said...

This sounds really interesting. You do have to wonder why events like this have been left out of history books.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Booking Pap Pap for another great review. My daughter is a History major and I think this will be the perfect book for her.

Beth F said...

sounds like something I would like but Mr. BFR would love. Thanks to Booking Pap Pap.

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I would agree with Jill that the long term effects were the steps that they took to make sure the word didn't spread and inspire others and it brought the French more quickly into line with being a state when they didn't have that much interest in cooperating with the government before. It was definitely a fascinating read. love discovering these lost pieces of history.