Dread Scott

Nov 22, 2013

I am currently working on an epic project and I want to share with you a behind the scenes look as it is in the early stages of development.

Slave Rebellion Reenactment will restage and reinterpret Louisiana’s German Coast Uprising of 1811. This uprising was the largest rebellion of enslaved people in American history. The reenactment will animate a hidden history of people with an audacious plan to take up arms to fight for their emancipation. The performance will draw on the tradition of Civil War reenactment and reenactment societies. It will involve hundreds of re-enactors (men and women), period specific uniforms of the enslaved rebels as well as clothing of the slave owners, horses and armaments. It will be reenacted on the outskirts of New Orleans where the 1811 revolt happened—the chemical refineries and trailer parks that have replaced the sugar plantations will be part of the backdrop. Slave rebellions were clandestinely organized by small groups of individuals. Mirroring this structure, an integral part of the artwork will be organizing meetings of multiple small groupings of participants and potential participants. Videos of the meetings will be part of the artwork’s archive.

Charles Deslondes, Kook and Quamana, the leaders of the 1811 uprising, and the many enslaved people who were part of the revolt are heroes whose vision and audacity should inspire people today, as it did in the past. Their rebellion is a profound “what if?” story. It had a real chance of succeeding—what would that have meant for US and world history? Having an understanding that the past was not predetermined opens the ability for people to dream “what if?” for the future. I hope that this project helps people of all races broaden their vision of what is possible.

From the beginning of September 2013, I was a Knight Artist-in-Residence at the McColl Center in Charlotte, NC. From there I worked on beginning to raise a slave army and traveled to New Orleans to conduct research and meet people who are the caretakers of this history and others who might participate. While there I took pictures of the some of the refineries, small towns and levies that will be the route for the reenactments’ ghost slave army. Some are shown on this Nexus page.

I have a lot of work to do to continue to raise this army and raise the money needed to outfit 700+ re-enactors and undertake the full scope of the project. And I’ll need permits granted, costumes sewn, film crews filming, logistical support, a website dedicated to the project, etc. I invite you to come on this journey with me. Sign up for info at http://www.dreadscott.net/rebellion-mailing

In addition to meeting and talking with many interesting people, a large part of Slave Rebellion Reenactment involves research/reading. My reading list includes:
– American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt, Daniel Rasmussen (a bestselling account of the 1811 revolt.)
– On to New Orleans, Herbert Thrasher (who told the “untold story” years before American Uprising)
– Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Walter Johnson
– Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, Bob Avakian
– Confession of Nat Turner
– American Negro Slave Revolts, Herbert Aptheker
– Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South, Adam Rothman
– Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to WWII, Douglas Blackmon
– Fire on the Mountain, Terry Bisson (a cool sci-fi “what-if” set in the future if John Brown and Harriet Tubman launched a successful war to end slavery)
– Race and Reunion, The Civil War in American Memory, David W. Blight

And I’ve been looking at how great artists have approached slave and peasant uprising. In particular:
– Hale Woodruff (Amistad murals)
– Kathe Kolwitz (Peasant War series)

Be a part of the Slave Rebellion Reenactment!

If you want to contribute (financial contributions, time/skills/labor, sewing, etc.) to Slave Rebellion Reenactment, please contact me at dread@dreadscott.net