Heart of Louisiana: House
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A more than two-century-old house in LaPlace has an amazingly diverse history. It’s the birthplace of an early jazz legend. But it’s also the place where enslaved people rebelled to gain their freedom.
This song has a special connection to the Andry Plantation in LaPlace. The Tune Muskrat Ramble was written by Kid Ory who grew up on the plantation, driving the water cart.
“Hook up the mule, go fill barrels with water, and then take them out to the workers in the sugar cane fields,” said Johm McCusker.
As a child, Ory formed a barbershop singing group, then started making cigar box guitars. John McCusker wrote a biography on Kid Ory a few years ago. He was contacted by the owner of this house
“He asked me about putting a museum in the space, which is not a call you get every day of your life,” McCusker said.
The museum opened in 2021. It features one of Ory’s trombones, a collection of his photographs and sheet music with handwritten notes by Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong.
“Ory is influenced by Buddy Bolden, a young man and in Kid Ory’s band. That Louis Armstrong gets his first professional work,” McCusker added.
But a recent renovation of the any house revealed a darker history. It was the starting point in 1811 for the largest rebellion of enslaved people in american history.
“This is where the rebellion begins, in these two rooms of the Andry Plantation. The owner, Manuel Andry, is asleep in his bed. He awakes being struck by an ax to see Charles Deslondes, his head slave driver, and a number of the enslaved from the joining plantations in his room at midnight,” McCusker said.
Andry was wounded, but his son was killed. MCcusker believes the enslaved workers were unable to find weapons, and so they armed themselves mostly with farm tools. They began a slow march toward New Orleans and their numbers increased as they passed other plantations, but the rebellion soon ended in bloodshed.
“The next day, Andry, the person who was first attacked and the rebellion goes with a force and they attack Charles’ people. They kill 40 to 50 in the field, and over the coming days they round up all the other people involved. They are shot at their home plantations and they are beheaded. The heads of these rebels are put on posts between here and Jackson Square,” McCusker said.
You have the story of this poor kid, talented who beats the odds and becomes a jazz, pioneer, a legend, then you have these people who are willing to die for a chance at their freedom, a very dark part of history. How do you mix those two?
“Just find the humanity in the stories. What would your move have been if you’d had been enslaved? What would your move have been if you’d been born into a system where you’re supposed to be a slave owner in Kid Ory’s story, what do you see? Don’t see in the world that you want to put in there, does that spark your creativity? You know, in his case it was music,” McCusker said.
You find that humanity in the rooms and on the walls of this 230-year-old home of people willing to die for freedom. Those who kept them in chains and a musical pioneer who helped create an american sound.
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