American Uprising by Daniel Rasmussen
Published by Harper Books, an imprint of Harper Collins
In 1811, in the relatively laid back and peaceful time between Christmas and Mardi Gras, a group of slaves in Louisiana rose up violently against their masters and turned their sights on the city of New Orleans. According to some sources, as many as 500 men may have been involved in the rebellion, which was headed by two men who had been raised in a marital environment in Africa, and yet the revolt is hardly mentioned in the history books, glossed over for the smaller slave uprisings of Nat Turner and John Brown. In “American Uprising,” Daniel Rasmussen both gives this event the attention it deserves, and explores the reasons that it has been largely disregarded in the story of American politics and slave relations.
Rasmussen has fabulous style for a writer of nonfiction. He is clear and concise – the entire book is under 300 pages – managing to support his assertions well, without getting nitpicky. In addition to all that, his prose is incredibly engaging, and he makes the most of his thrilling subject matter to keep the reader turning the pages, without giving way to sensationalism. The lead up to the revolt itself is almost nail-biting, engendering both intense sympathy for those rising up against enslavement and fear for the possible death toll. That being said, the story of why the history of this rebellion was de-politicized and suppressed was perhaps the most fascinating part of “American Uprising.” It was also the section that ran the greatest risk of being dull, but Rasmussen built on the interest he generated in the rebellion earlier in the book to make this less action-packed section equally compelling.
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