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Selected Books - Reviews
Daniel Rasmussen published American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revoltin 2011 which looks at the revolt known as the German Coast Uprising. The name comes from the location where it occurred, which was near New Orleans. Taking place prior to the admittance of Louisiana to the United States, the area was one which faced much political and societal upheaval, where the concern of the military was often on outward situations. This led leaders to become complacent when it came to their perceived control within its borders, especially over those whom they ruled as masters. Rasmussen states in the Prologue that, up to the publishing of his book, "the longest published scholarly account [about the uprising] runs a mere twenty-four pages". Overall, the book does a good job of creating a map of who the people involved were, as well as how they fit into the society which surrounded New Orleans in 1811. He also points out connections which existed between slave owners, who were private individuals, and the military, which was a government entity, as they worked together to suppress slave revolt and dissent. These connections are used to show that the United States did more than simply allow slavery to exist within its borders, but that the government of the day sought to assist the economic leaders of the South in keeping those who were enslaved locked in bondage. It is an interesting read, and one which opens the floor for discussions about the way in which the United States handled clear calls for freedom and liberty by slaves, well before the Civil War forced the issue onto the national battlefield.
Written in 2019 by Matthew Clavin, The Battle of Negro Fort: The Rise and Fall of a Fugitive Slave Community looks at a community which had been born out of the War of 1812, when the British military, local Native Americans, and fugitive slaves joined together in their fight against the United States. Located in Spanish Florida, this was an area beyond the governmental control of the young republic. However, when the war ended in 1815, the British and their Indian allies withdrew, leaving the fort in the hands of the men and women who had escaped from slavery in both the United States and Spanish Florida. The mere presence of such a community created a problem for American slaveowners and those who were pro-slavery, as it offered a place of refuge for slaves who wished to find freedom that the new nation seemed determined to keep from them. The book does a good job of pointing out that there were many narratives which were created about the various aspects surrounding this situation, both before and after the attack. This refuge was very near the southern border of the United States, and, just as the Underground Railroad inspired many in the years to come, so too did this enclave. However, once the fort was destroyed, legal questions were raised as to whether it had been appropriate for the United States to enter another nation's territory on such a mission. Overall, the author does a good job of pointing out that the United States worked to keep the institution of slavery standing, even when men and women fled beyond its borders to escape from it. Our collective memory as a nation mustn't forget such things as fugitive slave communities and slave uprisings and revolts: they remind us that freedom was not had by all, no matter what our desires would have our history say.