The Young Black Activists Targeting New Orleans’s Confederate Monuments

In 1811, Charles Deslondes, a mixed-race slave driver from Saint-Dominique, Haiti, led what would become the largest slave rebellion in American history. Composed of 500 men, many of whom had participated in the successful Haitian revolution only a few years prior, Deslondes’s army advanced on New Orleans with a military discipline that surprised many of their adversaries. As they marched along the Mississippi River—drums rumbling, flags held high above their heads—they attacked several plantations with an assortment of scavenged weapons. Within 48 hours, local militia and federal troops had suppressed the rebellion and Deslondes was ruthlessly executed—his hands were chopped off, he was shot in both legs, and then burned to death in a bale of straw.

The rebellion’s import has changed over time. In the immediate aftermath, the backlash was brutal. Alarmed slaveholders in Louisiana invested resources in training local militia, and slave patrols began surveying slave quarters with increasing frequency and ruthless violence. Meanwhile, the federal government realized that in order to defend Louisiana, it would also have to defend the institution of slavery. It formalized this commitment in 1812, when the United States officially granted Louisiana statehood. Louisiana remained a state until 1861, when it seceded from the Union. There is no doubt why it did this, as its leaders said so explicitly: “Louisiana looks to the formation of a Southern confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery.”

Today, the rebellion of 1811 is a historical cornerstone in an ongoing attempt to foster an honest reckoning with the past. Last week, a statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis, originally erected in 1911, was removed in New Orleans. This week, an equestrian statue of the Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard was also pulled down by authorities. Along with the removal of a monument to the Battle of Liberty Place, which commemorated a Reconstruction-era insurrection by white supremacists, three of a planned four monuments have been taken down. At the forefront of the effort to have the statues removed is a group of young, black activists known as Take ‘Em Down NOLA. Read more

Source: New Republic (USA)