A horde of proud but defiant black folks took on the streets, shouting slogans like “Death or Freedom” and “On To New Orleans”. Some were unarmed while others had weapons. Some walked barefoot while others had horses. But all of them had a collective idea: to end slavery.
Such was the reenactment of the 1811 Slave Rebellion of Louisiana, organized by New York-based artist Scott Dread. The event employed some 400 performers to recreate the largest slave rebellion in American history. Despite its obvious significance, the event was largely forgotten in the minds of the general public – until Scott decided to do something about it. Over the week, hundreds of performers were told how to dress, how to march, and how to use their weapons. The end result was a joyous yet profound moment of rebellion. But it was not an easy task to accomplish.
The idea for mass enacting something like this had been in Scott’s mind for a long time. Six years ago, he first came to know about the slave rebellions of 1811. While his mind was determined to enact on the idea, he faced many obstacles on the way. By the time he was ready to implement, Donald Trump was on his way to becoming the President and many investors became focused on politics instead of art. It didn’t help that Dread Scott didn’t have the credential of someone capable of pulling a massive show. However, he managed some investors at the end, including small non-profit institutions like A Blade Of Grass and Antenna. The whole procedure resembled shooting a small film – complete with casting calls and set designs. By the end of it, the final budget stood at a whopping $1 million+.
Through this event, Dread Scott wanted to start a conversation about slavery and how it is often overlooked in the conversation on racism. The artist’s own name is an obvious homage to Dred Scott, the slave who unsuccessfully tried to legally win his freedom in 1857.