Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Stone Center alum Denise Frazier featured in Vanity Fair as slave rebellion reenactor

September 17th, 2019

On November 8th and 9th of this year, artist Dread Scott will stage his Slave Rebellion Reenactment, a re-creation of America’s largest plantation uprising. The original march took place over the course of two days in January 1811, progressing from Louisiana’s German Coast to New Orleans with a slave driver of Haitian descent named Charles Deslondes at the helm. This fall, over two centuries later, Scott’s elaborate performance-art piece will reproduce and pay homage to this monumental moment that, until very recently, had been lost to history.

One of five-hundred reenactors is Denise Frazier, an SCLAS alum and the assistant director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South. She and fellow New Orleans participants are featured in the October 2019 Vanity Fair piece “Dread Scott’s Rebellion,” by Julian Lucas:

“Deslondes’s rebels came from a myriad of African nations; Scott’s represent a similar diversity of organizations in New Orleans’s arts, activist, and academic communities. I met several of them for a costume fitting at Antenna, a nonprofit gallery and arts space on St. Claude Avenue in the Bywater that is helping to sponsor the reenactment. The gathering had the casually energized atmosphere of a campaign office. Scott circled the room taking pictures, wearing an 1811 New Orleans team tee designed for the project’s Kickstarter campaign. (The bulk of the budget will be supplied by grants from philanthropic nonprofits including the Open Society Foundations, the MAP Fund, VIA Art Fund, and A Blade of Grass.) Someone remarked that the outfits, researched by Scott’s costumers at the nonprofit RicRack Nola, seemed too upmarket for the enslaved. Should they even be wearing shoes? Scott demurred. Enslaved people, he said, were the country’s most valuable asset class; if you drive a Mercedes, you’re not going to ruin its treads. ‘Besides,’ he added for good measure, ‘I’m sure they picked up some nice swag at the plantations they pillaged.’

Denise Frazier, a Tulane music scholar and assistant director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, posed with a machete in a red head wrap and blue-striped chintz dress. The rebellion’s community outreach director, Malcolm Suber—a veteran academic, labor activist, and national figure in the Take Em Down NOLA campaign against monuments to slaveholders and segregationists—stood like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man for the seamstress. In another corner of the room sat Imani Jacqueline Brown, at the time director of programs at Antenna. She compared Scott’s rebellion to ‘a spark in the wind setting little fires across the city.’ All year long, sewing circles have been finishing costumes; volunteers have included everyone from retired nurses to undergraduates at Xavier University of Louisiana, where Ron Bechet, an artist and professor, is teaching a course on the uprising.”

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