The last thing any racist wants to see is hundreds of armed slaves waving banners and beating drums while marching down the road, but that’s what happened in January 1811, when Charles Deslondes led the largest slave revolt in US history.
Sick of working on a Louisiana plantation, Deslondes organized a massive rebellion—which was no easy feat. Over several years, he secretly communicated with slaves across the Louisiana coast, holding meetings in fields, taverns, and at slave gatherings. He also had to overcome massive language barriers because many of his fellow slaves had come straight from Africa and Haiti. But finally, on January 8, 1811, Deslondes made his move. The slaves of the Woodland Plantation armed themselves with hoes, axes, and cane knives, hacked up their masters and marched west, where they met with slaves from a second plantation (led by two Ashanti warriors, no less). There were now 200–500 slaves on the warpath, burning every plantation they came across. And while they spared women and children, they made short work of the men.
This was every Southerner’s nightmare, and the roads to New Orleans were backed up for miles with whites running for their lives. The government sent the military to challenge Deslondes, and since the slaves had few guns, they had to retreat. They didn’t get far before they were trapped by a local militia. With nowhere to go, the slaves threw down, fighting valiantly with their farm tools, but in the end they were simply outgunned. The slaves who didn’t escape into the swamps were captured and executed. As he was the leader, Deslondes’s corpse was mutilated. Finally, the racists stuck the rebels’ heads on spikes and set them along the river from New Orleans to LePlace to serve as a warning to any slave thinking about fighting back.