Louisiana plantation which was home to the largest slave revolt in American history now under Black ownership

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 26, 2024 1:45 PM EDT
Dr Joy and Jo Banner. Photo credit: The Descendants Project

In 1811, more than 200 enslaved people launched an insurgency in present-day Louisiana. They escaped from sugarcane plantations on the German Coast and marched along the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. The revolt lasted only a few days before the poorly armed rebels were crushed by a militia and U.S. troops.  Many were captured and convicted of insurrection, resulting in the deaths of 95 slaves. The German Coast uprising was the largest slave revolt in American history.

Dr. Joy Banner and her sister, Jo, through their organization The Descendants Project have acquired the Louisiana plantation – commonly known as the Woodland Plantation – where the slave revolt was initiated in 1811. The plantation is under Black ownership for the first time in its 231-year history.

“Acquiring the Woodland property is an extension of The Descendants Project’s mission to preserve and protect the health, legacy, land, and lives of the Black descendant community in Louisiana’s River Parishes. We are humbled and grateful for this opportunity and are committed to engaging with descendants still living next to Woodland Plantation as well as our descendant communities on the West Bank of the River Parishes,” Dr. Joy and Jo Banner said about the acquisition of the Woodland property.

The acquisition of the Woodland Plantation will ensure the vibrancy of a major Black historic landmark that faced an uncertain future. The Banner sisters seek to protect and amplify the history of freedom-seeking men and women who initiated the German Coast Uprising. They are emphatic about making the site one of learning, memory and dedication and not a tourist attraction.

Inspired by legendary jazz musician Edward “Kid” Ory, born in 1886 at Woodland Plantation, the site will feature arts and culture programming. The site will offer opportunities for community members to engage in archaeology, heritage and tourism, and museum studies. The Descendants Project plans on preserving and remembering the numerous unidentified, unmarked burial grounds, some very close to the site.

The Banner sisters plan to use Woodland Plantation to tell the story of the revolt “in a way that hasn’t been told.” Their advocacy work, the “Plantation to Plant throughline,”  is intended to highlight the legacy of environmental racism. A proposed grain terminal that would pump over 100 tons of pollution into the air could potentially threaten the Wallace community’s quality of life. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the West Bank of St. John the Baptist Parish one of the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023” due to the potential influx of industrial pollution from the proposed terminal. The preservation of the Woodland Property is an opportunity to create a healthy, responsible, and inclusive economy for the descendants living around the Woodland Property.

“We eradicate the legacies of slavery, and that’s through the preservation of historic assets. We as a descendant community are still living with those legacies. So, in order to learn, we need to preserve places like this,” Banner explained why the Descendants Project gained ownership of the site.

The Descendants Project has a partnership with Whitney Plantation, which focuses on the history and legacies of slavery in the United States. The Banner sisters can trace their ancestors to people enslaved at Whitney Plantation and Laura Plantation, and they continue to research if any of them were involved in the rebellion. Their nonprofit is committed to the intergenerational healing and flourishing of the Black descendant community in the Louisiana River parishes.