The Untold Story of One of America’s Largest Slave Revolts

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.


In that vein, the 1811 slave rebellion was a 9/11-like event that enabled the American politicians to consolidate power in a French-dominated region that had until then questioned American control. Rasmussen asserts that the following reign of white terror and militarization not only made New Orleans American but also prepared the city to take victory during the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 against the British.

When thinking about American Uprising and its place challenging the standard story of this rebellion, I can’t help thinking of what author Edward Said wrote: “Facts do not at all speak for themselves, but require a socially acceptable narrative to absorb, sustain, and circulate them … as Hayden White has noted in a seminal article, ‘narrative in general, from the folk tale to the novel, from annals to the fully realized “history,” has to do with the topics of law, legality, legitimacy, or, more generally, authority.’ “

By all accounts, Rasmussen’s writing style is smooth; the story sustains interest throughout. The academic language left over from when the book was still his senior thesis might pique at points, but its meta-level punches on the study of history are robust flourishes. Let’s just hope that wines of historical truth telling to come — like Rasmussen’s — will be received with open palates by the public, as well.

Wendell Hassan Marsh is a D.C.-based journalist. Find him online at the

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