Revisiting Louisiana memories



On the night of January 8th, 1811, hundreds of slaves in St. Charles, Louisiana, rose up in rebellion against their masters.

The white population was in a state of panic, fearing a repetition of the slave revolution in Saint-Domingue which had led to the independence of Haiti in 1804. Their fears were unfounded; the revolt was quickly suppressed, and the surviving rebels captured, judged and executed.

The Louisiana authorities silenced abolitionist discourse, seeking to protect their economic, social and cultural development. 

Université de Sherbrooke History research professor Jean-Pierre Le Glaunec is attempting to shed light on this slave uprising, one of the largest in North American history. To document the event, Le Glaunec uses various source documents on the African slave trade, slave testimonials, and sacramental records.

The preliminary results of this research indicate that we must take a broader perspective when considering the official version of the facts, which tend to represent the event as a simple repetition of the Haitian Revolution in Saint-Domingue. According to Le Glaunec, at the time the Louisiana authorities — mistakenly — placed the blame for this insurgence on refugees from Saint-Domingue who had arrived in the U.S. a few years earlier. The evidence collected does not support this view.

Le Glaunec proposes that it was the abolition of the slave trade in 1808 and the circulation of abolitionist discourse, marking the emergence of a "black" Creole identity, which played a primary role in the insurrection.

The Louisiana authorities silenced abolitionist discourse, seeking to protect their economic, social and cultural development. As we approach the bicentennial anniversary of the uprising, the results of this study allow us to reconstruct this important event in Louisiana history.