January 8th, 1811

Largest Slave Insurrection in U.S. History Begins in Louisiana

On January 8, 1811, Charles Deslondes led a rebellion of some 500 enslaved black people in New Orleans, Louisiana, in what became known as the German Coast Uprising.

After black people in Haiti won their independence from the French in 1804 following a thirteen-year war, surviving white planters relocated from Haiti to Orleans Territory, now the State of Louisiana. Many brought with them enslaved black laborers, including Charles Deslondes, who had been born into slavery in Haiti. Orleans Territory's black population tripled between 1803 and 1811, leaving whites fearful of a black rebellion.

In early January 1811, Charles Deslondes convened a meeting of enslaved black people to plan an anti-slavery rebellion in New Orleans. The rebellion began on January 8, 1811, with a plantation attack that left one white man dead. The rebels then traveled along the Mississippi River, attacking plantations and recruiting more fighters. Some enslaved blacks joined the rebels, while others warned their masters and tried to avert plantation attacks. Many whites escaped across the river.

On January 11, a militia of white planters confronted the rebels in a brief battle, killing many and forcing others to flee. Deslondes and his supporters were captured. Some were returned to their plantations; others were tried and executed, their corpses publicly displayed as warning against future uprisings. The final death toll included two whites and ninety-five blacks. The territorial legislature later voted to financially compensate whites whose enslaved black laborers had been killed.


March 3rd, 1819

Congress Creates Fund for “Civilization” of Indian Tribes

On March 3, 1819, the United States Congress enacted the Civilization Fund Act, authorizing the President, “in every case where he shall judge improvement in the habits and condition of such Indians practicable” to “employ capable persons of good moral character” to introduce to any tribe adjoining a frontier settlement the “arts of civilization.”

With a budget of $10,000 per year, missionaries and church leaders partnering with the federal government would establish schools in Indian territories to teach Native children to replace tribal practices with Christian practices. In 1824, the federal government established the Bureau of Indian Affairs to oversee the fund and implement programs to “civilize” the Native people.

In the following years, as the United States systematically removed tribes from their homelands to land west of the Mississippi River, the United States turned to policies purportedly aimed at achieving “the great work of regenerating the Indian race.”

According to Indian Commissioner Luke Lea, it was “indispensably necessary that they be placed in positions where they can be controlled, and finally compelled by stern necessity...until such time as their general improvement and good conduct may supersede the necessity of such restrictions.” Over the ensuing decades, the United States’ orientation to Native peoples changed from adversarial to paternalistic.