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

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  987 ratings  ·  140 reviews
“Breathtaking. [Rasmussen’s] scholarly detective work reveals a fascinating narrative of slavery and resistance, but it also tells us something about history itself—about how fiction can become fact, and how ‘history’ is sometimes nothing more than erasure.” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“Deeply researched, vividly written, and highly original.” —Eric Foner

Historian Daniel Rasmus
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Harper (first published December 15th 2010)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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Feb 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
Props to Rasmussen for 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? W
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this because a friend foisted it upon me, so my enthusiasm was not high. It's to the book's credit that I zoomed through it and found it pretty gripping.

The story of the short-lived and unsuccessful uprising of New Orleans slaves in 1811, this was interesting and vividly-written (although it started out as a senior thesis project, and quite a lot of it reads like a college paper). I found the historical parts about the settling of Louisiana informative. However, too much of the reporting
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-history
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
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, slavery
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
Johnny D
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Tom Emory Jr.
Jun 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
Tom Emory, Jr. Review -- "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 defeated quickly and executed rapidly.

Slavery, in whatever form, is heinous. But the author's f
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Why bother reading about a slave revolt from 200 years ago? I grew up with the fable that American expansionism (i.e. Manifest Destiny) was motivated by a god-given duty to spread our nonviolent democratic institutions from sea to shining sea. Daniel Rasmussen's book makes a convincing connection between American expansionism and preserving the "Southern way of life," otherwise known as slavery-based agriculture. Rasmussen details the atrocities a priviliged class will go through to keep a lower ...more
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, loaned-out
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
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
The untold history of a slave revolt decades before the Civil War. Kook, Quomana, and Charles Desmondes’ story is finally told. As I read this, I knew they were doomed and couldn’t help but think of the song lyrics, “When you see a documentary and you know the ending is f***ed, you still hope that Hitler will blow up and that Kennedy will duck.” I knew they were doomed (I think Howard Zinn first alerted me to this story) but I didn’t know how their legend lived on among the slaves even until the ...more
Dan Petegorsky
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
I had a single, unshakeable impression throughout the entire reading of this book. Another Goodreads reviewer felt the same way:

Overall, this book reads like a promising undergraduate thesis that was rushed into production in the guise of a groundbreaking historical treatise.

I thought about that on every page. The author’s sometimes bizarre choice of (or misuse of) words is one example. There are others, but the best place to see them is this well-written review: Dave's review
Joshua Mingo
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
How he makes an interesting topic like this boring is beyond me...
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.

Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The insights covered into life at the time of an early enslaved people revolt and the consequences of the revolt in the South in particular and American history generally are enlightening.
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
American Uprising changed the way I look at the world. The measure of a book to me is that it teaches me something about something I am interested in and changes my mental image of this subject. In the case of American Uprising that subject was slavery. I never understood the relationship between the sugar islands and the Louisiana Purchase. I knew there were sugar plantations in Louisiana but not to the extent that they existed. Sugar Slavery was different from Slavery in the rest of American s ...more
Mar 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
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
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, ibooks
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.
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
I think the author had admirable intentions, but the subject doesn't have enough documentation. The narrative thread is overstretched and the evidence of the uprising itself is not compelling enough to overcome the strained connections that the author makes. This would be a great chapter in a book about slave revolts in general, but isn't strong enough to stand on its own.
Fredrick Danysh
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
After Louisiana became a US territory and there was a successful slave revolt in Haiti, the area around New Orleans abounded with sugar plantations. Conditions were harsh for the slaves on these plantations and slaves lasted only a few years. In 1811 slightly over 200 slaves revolted, killing several white planters. This is the story of that revolt and the results.
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.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decided to read this after I heard an interview with the author on NPR.
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Pretty good. Reads more like a novel than a history book. I was surprised how little I knew about slavery and the role of blacks in fighting against it.
Jim Carleton
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"History is written by the victors." This quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, is, like most such literary and historical titbits, an oversimplification of reality. In the case of this book's topic, however, it would seem to be more apt than not. Several earlier reviews of, and commentaries on, this book have complained that the author has overstated his case as to the scope and extent of the slave uprising in New Orleans in 1811. In my view, this is the very heart of the book: those wh ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This felt like it was more about the time frame of the 1811 Slave Revolt rather than the uprising itself. It is understandable to a point considering how Charles Deslondes' revolt was suppressed in the history books, but at times I got the feeling that I was reading a general history guide instead of an account of slaves rising against their oppressors. My favorite parts of the book were when the author goes into detail about why early 19th Century New Orleans was such a mixture of different cul ...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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