The largest slave revolt in U.S. history is commemorated | NOLA.com

Littice Bacon-Blood, The Times-Picayune By Littice Bacon-Blood, The Times-Picayune

More than a century before the first modern-day civil rights march, there was Charles Deslondesand his make-do army of more than 200 enslaved men battling with hoes, axes and cane knives for that most basic human right: freedom.

RevoltEnlargeDAVID GRUNFELD / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE The 200 year anniversary of the 1811 Slave Revolt in St. John and St. Charles Parishes that reverberated around the country because of the large number of enslaved people involved, the organized nature of it, and oddly enough -some say it finally demonstrated that all was not well among those held in bondage. Destrehan Plantation, along with Tulane University and African American Museum in Treme are hosting a yearlong look at the uprising that stared Jan. 8, 1811 through a series of events and exhibits. The commemoration starts with the exhibit opening at Destrehan on Jan. 8, 2011.Revolt gallery (8 photos)  

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They spoke different languages, came from various parts of the United States, Africa and Haiti, and lived miles apart on plantations along the German Coast of Louisiana. Yet after years of planning at clandestine meetings under the constant threat of immediate death, they staged a revolt on Jan. 8, 1811, that historians say is the largest uprising of enslaved people in this country.

“Slavery was very harsh and cruel, but the slaves themselves were not mindless chattel with no aspirations and no basis for humanity,” said John Hankins, executive director of the New Orleans African American Museum.“This revolt demonstrates that there were people willing to make the ultimate sacrifices to better not just themselves but other people.”

A year of events planned

To mark the 200 year anniversary of that revolt, Destrehan Plantation, in conjunction with Tulane University and the African American Museum, located in Treme, is organizing a yearlong look at the uprising that reverberated around the fledgling nation because of the large number of enslaved people involved, its military strategy and oddly enough, because it demonstrated that all was not well among those held in bondage.

“I don’t think the United States as a whole understood that the enslaved black population were as unhappy as they were,” said Hazel Taylor, the special project coordinator at Destrehan Plantation. “Slave owners had a tendency to say that (slaves) were happy. What this did was put awareness on the people who were being oppressed.”

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The revolt, which started in St. John the Baptist Parish about 30 miles west of New Orleans, also raised awareness of the harshness of the slave system and fueled the abolitionist movement, Taylor said.

My great-grandmother was a slave – just one hundred forty-eight years ago.

The largest slave revolt in U.S. history is commemorated | NOLA.com.

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