“Freedom or Death” 1811

Wearing stolen militia uniforms, armed primarily with farm tools, and chanting “Freedom or Death,” about 500 slaves marched toward New Orleans on the night of January 8, 1811. Fully aware that torture and decapitation would be their fate if defeated, they bravely fled a life of slavery in the hope of establishing an independent black republic.

Charles Deslonde was the enslaved overseer turned insurgent who led the revolt from a sugar plantation in the Louisiana territory. He and his men escaped and began a 22-mile march, burning property and picking up slaves along the way. Although quickly put down, the “German Coast Uprising” was the largest slave insurrection in the United States—one of many examples of the extraordinary courage shown by slaves in their battles for freedom.