The German Coast Slave Rebellion of 1811 was the most dramatic example of resistance to slavery in American history. On January 8, 1811, an armed force of enslaved Africans and Afro-Creoles assembled in St. John the Baptist Parish, drawing in new supporters from surrounding parishes as they marched toward New Orleans, weapons ready. Eyewitness accounts estimate that between 150 and 500 enslaved men and women joined the procession, which was put down by federal troops and militiamen before the freedom seekers reached New Orleans. During the rebellion and its aftermath nearly one hundred enslaved insurrectionists were killed—either on the battlefield or by execution.
On November 8–9, 2019, Brooklyn-based performance artist Dread Scott coordinated a historic reenactment of the uprising that included hundreds of reenactors dressed in period costume marching—and riding horseback—over twenty-six miles from LaPlace, Louisiana, through St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, Jefferson, and Orleans Parishes. The marchers, wearing period costumes developed by Alison Parker and the team at ricRACK, Inc., ended in New Orleans, this time triumphantly, with a celebration in Congo Square. Photographer Abdul Aziz captured the reenactment as it unfolded.
Devonta Payton leads his horse during the Slave Rebellion Reenactment.
Equestrian reenactors riding through St. John.
A reenactor brandishes a sickle.
Marchers on the levee, including Delamie Stevenson (center), in St. John the Baptist Parish.
Weapons were meticulously selected to accurately represent tools, like this cane knife held by reenactor Earl Washington, that enslaved people would have had access to.
Artist and reenactment organizer Dread Scott, carrying a cane knife, leads participants through St. John the Baptist Parish.
Reenactor Stephen Estopinal (right) portrays a member of the militia formed to quell the German Coast Uprising.
Under a makeshift flag bearing the Creole French “Morte ou librite” (death or liberty), reenactors storm the Bonnet Carre Spillway.
Marlon Hughes pauses to survey his surroundings during the 20-plus mile march.
Participants march along a levee in St. John the Baptist Parish.
New Orleans actor Raykim “2 bears” Goslar joins the Slave Rebellion Reenactment.