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Slave Rebellion Re-enactment: A sense of freedom

Authors: Monica Barra*, University of South Carolina, Victoria Grubbs*, New York University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, United States, Cultural Geography
Keywords: black geographies, performance, slavery, louisiana
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over two days in 2019 hundreds of people of African and Indigenous American descent will march twenty six miles along the Mississippi River from Laplace to New Orleans in a staged reenactment of Louisiana’s German Coast Uprising of 1811. In contrast to the original uprising, which was violently suppressed by regional plantation owners, the 2019 reenactment will continue to Congo Square - a historically symbolic space associated with African culture and freedom where participants and observers of all backgrounds are invited to “reimagine the achievements of the insurgents with a celebration.”

Slave Rebellion Reenactment, envisioned by artist Dread Scott, is a conceptual community-engaged performance that asks voluntary participants to embody enslaved rebels/liberators in mind, body, and spirit in their quest to end slavery and attain freedom. This freedom will be animated by walking feet, weapon brandishing hands, upheld heads, raised eyes, lifted voices - a truly somatic liberation.

This paper situates Slave Rebellion Reenactment within the work of black feminist metaphysics (Spillers 1987; Wynter 2006) that examines the ways choreographies of resistance (Cox 2015) exceed individual bodies and temporally bound spaces to animate a collective social body defined by blackness in defiance of past and ongoing colonizing forces. We analyze this performance as a geographic praxis that reanimates the plantation as a space of black resistance, producing what McKittrick (2013) posits as possible plantation futures not circumscribed by violence and premature death. We draw from participant observation as an actor in the rebellion and a public witness of the reenactment.

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