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American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  490 ratings  ·  106 reviews
In January 1811, five hundred slaves dressed in military uniforms and armed with guns, cane knives, and axes rose up from the plantations around New Orleans and set out to conquer the city. Ethnically diverse, politically astute, and highly organized, this self-made army challenged not only the economic system of plantation agriculture but also American expansion. Their ma ...more
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Published March 25th 2011 by Tantor Media (first published December 15th 2010)
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Dave
Props to Rasmussen to researching and publicizing this incident of slave revolt. But that's about the only good thing I have to say about this stiflingly simplistic retelling of what should have been a riveting and important story.

Strike 1: Rasmussen's mantra
"We will never really know..." He uses this line about every 10 pages before filling in whatever gap he's identified with a clumsily executed piece of parallel history. Wondering what the leaders of the New Orleans revolt might have felt? We
...more
Mark
I could not have been happier to finish this book. I bought this book with the anticipation that it would be a well written historical narrative that lead me through the events of an uprising that has not been widely told in most of our history books. What I found was an author who not only was inexperienced in writing quality historical narratives, but also felt the need to quite forcefully inject his opinion and viewpoint on topics that were much larger than the purported focus of this book. T ...more
Tom Emory Jr.
"American Uprising" is disappointing. As history, it's subject to the "Noble Negro/White Savage" bias of the author, who, I believe, willfully lacks an understanding of the plantation south and its centuries of development. The story is of the 1811 German Coast Slave Revolt just north of New Orleans, Louisiana, and its very short life and expected finish with the slaves being beaten quickly and executed rapidly.

Slavery, in whatever form, is heinous. But the author's failure to understand and de
...more
VJ
Currently reading this book for descriptions of the culture more than for the history of the revolt. I plan to follow this with a reading of Russel Jacoby's Bloodlust because I want to see how much of the roots of violence are attributed to Spanish, Portuguese, German and British brutality.

What a telling. The telling of the German Coast revolt was inspirational in that it put the lie to all those depictions of early slaves as unable to put together a coherent response to the brutality under whic
...more
R.
Acclaimed historian of colonial America, Jack P. Green, has called the South “a negative example of what America had to overcome before it could finally realize its true self.” For two centuries, the struggle to 'integrate' the South into a more 'progressive' and 'mainstream' American narrative has flummoxed scholars, politicians, and cultural theorists of all shades. The South still tends to confound those who are not a part of it. Dan Rasmussen’s new book American Uprising perhaps adds another ...more
Alana
There is no question that Dan Rasmussen must be commended for bringing to light the hidden history of this incredible and inspiring uprising of Louisiana maroons in 1811. There were times when I felt he made too great an effort to be even-handed (i.e., sympathetic to the plantation owners and slaveholders), and it was frustrating for me to hear how dismissive and condescending he was towards Marxists and Communists who shared his goal of raising the rebel slaves up as heroes (saying things like, ...more
Dan Petegorsky
Given how this has been promoted, I had higher expectations than it delivered. While the actual number of slaves participating in the short-lived revolt might give some merit to the "largest slave revolt" moniker, Rasmussen doesn't make an especially strong case for the overall impact of the revolt, and his treatment of the revolt itself is actually pretty thin.

That's not necessarily his fault: there simply does not seem to be very much primary material to draw on from the standpoint of the sla
...more
Helen
Aug 10, 2012 Helen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
This is a well-written, exciting history of the 1811 forgotten slave uprising in ante-bellum Louisiana, which also sheds light on the context of the US victory over the 1815 British in New Orleans, which occurred at the end of the War of 1812. In addition, the reader learns how the drive to expand the area of the US by means of the Louisiana Purchase and a number of subsequent US military and diplomatic actions in the Southwest led to the expansion of the US, including the number of slave states ...more
Whassan
Some history books try to tell a story. Others try to turn history upside down, challenging preconceived notions about winners and losers. American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt does the latter.

Some history books try to tell a story. Others try to turn those stories on their heads, breaking apart what has been accepted as truth in the process. Daniel Rasmussen's American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt (Harper) tries to do the latter.

Th
...more
Johnny D
Now, uh, let's see.

*checks notes*

Alright, ahem, so I finished this book a week ago and uh . . .

*mumbles incoherently while adjusting shirt collar*

So, yeah, I finished it. I thought the writing was good.

*peers up at the class nervously as the teacher gestures to continue*

So the writing was good, but I forgot most of what I read.

*face reddens as the class titters and the teacher motions everyone to be quiet*

I wrote down, uh, some of the thoughts that I have a week after finishing this book.

1) The
...more
Robyn
There is so little information about what happened during that revolt - it has been lost to history -- that the author could really only put together a few chapters around the uprising itself. He couldn't give details about the people who led the revolt, why they did it, how they made it work, what it was like. He could only report on how the white planters responded to it. So to market the book as a insiders story of the revolt is misleading. However, it is a heartbreaking look at the cruelty o ...more
Melanie
I am surprised that since Rasmussen's book was originally a senior thesis and he has so many acknowledgements at the end, that his mentors and editors didn't call him on some of his obvious faults. His characterization of two of the slave rebellion leaders as "Akan warriors" is purely speculative, his motivation for the rebellion romanticized and his supporting evidence for the scope of the rebellion non-existant. Too bad, as it could have been a great contribution to the history of slave Americ ...more
David R.
The wealth of detail on a fundamentally unknown slave uprising in pre-statehood Louisiana is spoiled by excessive doses of hyperbole and shrillness, especially in the later chapters. Rasmussen is at his best dissecting the impetus to horrifying violence by both the slave-rebels and the slaveocrat establishment. He disappoints whenever drawing conclusions, some to modern times that are weakly rendered. I was also expecting --but did not find-- comparisons and contrasts with other, better-known up ...more
Sbussey
I loved this. It was an easy read (Rasmussen writes like a journalist rather than a historian) and I found the closing chapters considering the way history has hidden this and other slave revolts especially thought-provoking. I am pretty educated about American history and slave history by most standards, but I am significantly more informed (about something I thought I knew) after reading this.
Trevor Gardner
How many lovers of history have heard of Charles Deslondes, Kook, or Quamana? Very few, I imagine - just as I had never heard of these three leaders of the largest slave rebellion in the history of this country. Daniel Rasmussen's insightful and highly readable treatise brings to light this powerful moment in American history, when 200-500 enslaved Africans along the German Coast, near New Orleans, organized and rose up with the purpose of ending the institution of slavery. Placing the German Co ...more
David
Well researched description of a virtually unknown slave uprising in 1811 New Orleans. History is written by the victor. In this case, the victor was a US military anxious to exert it's influence over Louisiana and by nervous slave holders who wanted to erase this revolt from the record. Always difficult to read about our nation's treatment of African Americans. This book just adds to that shame.
Roger Haskins
The book was segmented so that only a part actually talked about the uprising. It was a good account of the revolt though based on the fact that the largest resource prior was a 24 page paper. It is unfortunate this story is not more well known. Over all the book was a decent read, though the part covering the uprising was the main point of interest for me.
Katie
Interesting part of history I hadn't heard about before. However, I did not care for the writing. The book felt padded, and there was a lot of conjecture about how people might have felt or thought. In the epilogue the author notes this was originally his senior thesis. It reads like it.
allimo
A surprisingly dry account of a grisly and hidden chapter of American history. Hard to read at parts, and not just because of the violence; the writing lacks much sense of urgency, telling the tale rather lazily and dwelling a bit too much on certain aspects to make a point. The author is trying hard to turn this into an argumentative piece on the politics of slavery and racism, or... something along those lines?... and the opinion-piece interjections add little or nothing to the overall story.

T
...more
Jwest87
I'm very glad that I didn't pay full price for this. This is a bare bones look at slave life in Louisiana with a brief section about the 1811 German Coast Uprising. My first problem is how vague the entire book is. Mr. Rasmussen gives basic facts of plantation life, but not much further. Some of the final chapters felt unnecessary. I was under the impression that this book would mostly cover the revolt, not dive into events in the American Civil War. A tiny tiff I had about this was how many bla ...more
Unwisely
This title is a little confusing - the slave revolt itself is covered in the first half of the book. The rest is more an exploration of context and why the narrative was presented the way it was in official reports and a little discussion of terrorism vs freedom fighting. Which was mostly interesting - I hadn't realized the threat the Spaniards in Western Florida posed - but not quite what I expected.

Interesting and makes me wish I'd read it *before* I went to New Orleans earlier this year, so I
...more
Zena Ryder
An interesting story of a slave revolt in Louisiana in 1811, the political machinations of the United States government of the time — including surreptitious coups and treaty breaking. The young United States was an incredibly violent place, with violence towards slaves being particularly terrible in this area. Along with violence towards slaves, the United States was violent towards native Americans and also imperialist settlers from other countries. The slave revolt was crushed by the plantati ...more
Joseph
Wow, this got ripped by the other readers. I don't think it was quite that bad and although the author used a lot of "We will never know what they were thinking" or "We will never know what really happened," I think he did so that he wasn't going to mislead people in facts and fiction. I applaud that, it just happened quite a bit.
The story of this revolt or as his book described as the largest revolt sort of fell short in being a good to great book. The book jacket said there were over 500 slav
...more
Cara
I would not have finished this book if it weren't so short. Not because it's necessarily that bad (it's only mediocre), but because I was listening to the audiobook version, and the narrator, David Drummond, is terrible. He sounds like a comedic over-interpretation of a William Shatner impression. Weird timing, weird pace, pauses in the middle of sentences where there should not be any pauses.

As for the book itself, I will admit that I had trouble separating the narration from the actual conten
...more
Abbey
Only 1/3 of the book is actually about the New Orleans slave rebellion, which took 3 days in January 1811 and involved between 100 to 400 slaves. The bulk of the book is about the circumstances that preceded the revolt, especially the successful slave revolt in Haiti, and the events after the revolt, from the trials all the way to the Civil War and beyond. It's good to set the context, but there didn't seem to be enough content about the actions and movements of the slaves.

Biggest surprise: the
...more
Chuck
Daniel Rasmussen's "American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt" is about an 1811 revolt by several hundred slaves from a group of plantations near New Orleans.

The slaves were probably led by several enslaved former professional soldiers from various African kingdoms. The group burned down several plantations, managed to kill a very small number of plantation owners and their families, and seized a few arms and a small amount of ammunition.

Poorly organized, poorly arm
...more
Bill
I have to admit, I generally find it challenging to read non-fiction, but this was an amazing exception to that rule. The research for this book was clearly meticulous, and the presentation was compelling and readable. I find it incredible that the story of this giant rebellion has been suppressed for so many years, when in fact it was undoubtedly the most significant rebellion ever attempted by African American slaves in this country. Unlike the famous Nat Turner revolt, which garnered a mere h ...more
Damon Betty
This is a well-written book about a little known topic. The author does overplay the impact that this event had. If it was the largest slave revolt that America ever had, then America never had much of a slave revolt. That is not to take anything away from the brave souls who dared to try, but the fact that this was the most ever done really speaks to the complete control that the plantation owners had, the ruthlessness, and the inhumanity that they were willing to live with to maintain that con ...more
Michelle
There has been a push in recent decades for history books to present the full picture of certain historical events, to try to present an alternative viewpoint of history. American Uprising is a novel that meshes well with this trend, as it not only goes into details about the largest slave uprising in U.S. history, an event that receives very little attention from historians, but it also revisits more famous historical events and shines a new light on them. Mr. Rasmussen presents his findings in ...more
Liz
After spending several months trying to make it through this book, I am finally putting it aside for now. I wanted to like this book, as it is on an important topic that hasn't been too well-covered in English yet. But the scholarship, if you can even call it that, is shoddy. The author does things like, for example - saying that it is plausible, given certain stated pieces of evidence, that a certain slave came from a certain society in Africa, and then later describing them as being that natio ...more
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Dan Rasmussen was born and raised in Washington, DC, where he attended St. Albans School. He graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 2009, where he studied History and Literature with a focus on American slavery and the 19th century American South. He wrote his senior thesis, Violent Visions, on the 1811 German Coast Uprising - the largest slave revolt in American h ...more
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