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If you travel 45 minutes West of New Orleans along the Mississippi River, you’ll run into the parishes (i.e., equivalent to counties) of St. John the Baptist, St. Charles, and Jefferson. This location became the site of the largest slave insurrection against White slaveholders and the US government — the German Coast Uprising of 1811.
Inspired by Africans defeating the French in the Haitian Revolution, whispers in sugar cane fields and slave quarters began spreading.
Blinded by their lust for luxury, fortune, and status, these adventurous Europeans had caught amnesia. They had forgotten the bloody battle that uprooted many of their lives several years ago. Morality wasn’t their conviction nor was danger.
Kwaku and Kwamina
The humans these early Louisianans claimed as property were plucked from the African continent during a time of civil war. James Brown, a White Sugar planter and enslaver, unknowingly purchased two African warriors of the Akan tribe. Kwaku and Kwamina were purchased by Brown in 1806 for a collective sum of $1,300.
Once they reached plantation row, the German Coast, Kwaku and Kwamina were forced to worked 16-plus hour days 7 days a week. Charles Deslondes was an enslaved person whose White father may have very well been one of the wealthiest planters and slaveowners in the region. His lighter skin spared him from the brutality of the sugar cane fields. Hence, he was appointed the position of slave driver.
During the winter of 1811, Charles Deslondes was owned by Manunel Andry, a planter near the Deslondes plantation on the east side of the Mississippi in St. John the Baptist.
However, Charles was often rented out to other plantations to monitor those forced to work in the deadly sugar cane fields. And he played his role well, even committing violent acts against other enslaved people who dared step out of line when cane needed to be cut. But beneath his lighter privileged skin, Charles was a plotter who entered into a pact with Kwaku and Kwamina to overthrow his master and the other slaveholders in the region.
The Night of Reckoning
On a rainy night, January 8, 1811, twenty-five dark faces approached the back door of the mansion on the Andry’s plantation. They crept up the double-stair case into the two sleeping quarters where Manuel and his son each rested.
One of the liberation seekers must have made a sound because Manuel Andry’s eyes snapped open to the sight of Black figures approaching him in the dark.
Excerpt from American Uprising:
His mind clouded by fear and anger, Andry’s eyes fixed on Charles’s axe, a plantation to transmit it into an icon of violent insurrection. As the slaves surged toward him, Andry leapt from his bed. The slaves stood between him and the staircase–and that was his only way of escape. Andry made the decision to act, charging toward the surprised slaves.
As he rushed through the crowd of rebels, the slaves lunged at him, slicing his passing body with three long cuts. But somehow Andry made it past. He hurled himself toward the staircase, turning his head only to catch a most horrifying sight: the slaves swinging their aces into his dying son’s body.Page 99 – 100
A Judas Amongst the Liberators
Excerpt from American Uprising:
All the odds were against the slave-rebels, and Francois knew well that his best chance of survival amid the brutal work of sugar planting came from siding with the powerful and pledging allegiance to the White men who controlled the entire world as he knew it, from the slave ships that picked him up in Africa to the great city of New Orleans to the small worlds of the plantations.Page 104
Francois, a house slave, chose to alert his master about the approaching Black army.
Francois fled with his master, alerting other White planters and enslavers along the road to New Orleans.
Emboldened at the sight of White men and their families fleeing, the self-liberated people shouted, “Freedom or Death.”
The next day, Whites in New Orleans began to panic and remembered what had happened in Haiti.
Planters in the area began forming militia groups to fight the Black Army. Although the territory wasn’t yet an official state, the US Government sent its military to defeat Charles’s army. Ninety-five enslaved Black freedom seekers were executed by the US army. As a lesson, their heads were placed on spikes and mounted atop of the levees along the Mississippi River.
Every White planter was compensated $300 for each escaped enslaved person killed or executed by the legislature of the Territory of Orleans.
To learn more about this incredible story of courage and resistance in the German Coast Uprising, purchase American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt.