Rebellions and Uprisings in the United States
image of Nat Turner
the most distressing and violent aspects of American history was
the institution of slavery. For over two hundred years, Africans
were brought against their will to Britain's American colonies and
to the new United States of America. One historian (Herbert
Aptheker), calculated that over two hundred separate slave revolts
and conspiracies took place from the 1600's to the end of the U.S.
Civil War in 1865.
addition to the major rebellions listed below, many slaves took
part in acts of individual opposition to their slave status. These
actions included purposely damaging tools, working slowly, burning
down buildings and the occasional act of violence against whites.
Of course, an effective way to gain personal freedom, while also
hurting their owner economically, was
attempt escape. Prior to Florida's annexation by the United
States, many slaves escaped to that area and set up free
of a slave revolt, or of an individual slave taking violent action
against the slave-owners, came into the public eye in 2012 and
2013 with the release of the Quinten Tarantino movie "Django
Unchained," which stars Jaime Foxx as the ex-slave named Django,
who exacts a bloody retribution upon cruel
County, Virginia--Sept. 1663--This
was the first major conspiracy for a possible slave rebellion. The
plot by black slaves and white indentured servants was betrayed to
the authorities. Several plotters were beheaded.
York City Slave Rebellion--1712--25
slaves armed with guns and clubs burned down houses on the
northern edge of New York City and killed nine whites. The rebels
were killed after soldiers arrived. The repercussions of this
rebellion resulted in the tortuous execution of 18 participants in
80 slaves armed themselves and attempted to march toward Spanish
Florida from their home area of Stono, South Carolina. When
confronted by a group of white militia, a battle ensued.
Forty-four blacks and twenty-one whites perished.
York Conspiracy--March and April,
Thirty-one slaves and four whites were executed as a result of
rumors of a major slave rebellion in New York City. It is unknown
whether these rumors were based on fact or were part of a larger
paranoia which existed regarding slave uprisings.
Prosser, a blacksmith, and his brother Martin, a slave preacher,
planned a major rebellion in Virginia. They recruited at least a
thousand slaves to their cause and built up a secret cache of
weapons in anticipation of marching on the state capital of
Richmond. When the day of the revolt arrived though, a violent
storm washed out the roads and bridges leading to Richmond. The
rebels broke up and Prosser was betrayed by one of his followers.
The state militia captured Prosser and he and many of his
followers were hanged.
rebellion in St. John the Baptist Parish --Jan 8-10,
rebellion in Louisiana in which 500 slaves took part and 100 were
killed. Louisiana had only recently joined the United States after
the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
hundred fugitive slaves and Florida Indians battled U.S. Army
troops at Apalachicola Bay in Florida.
a free black man living in South Carolina, detested slavery and
took great inspiration from stories of Israelite freedom from
bondage in the Bible. He began organizing for a major rebellion
which would take place in 1822 in the city of Charleston. He and
his followers organized into small cells, independent of each
other. This way, of a single cell were detected by the
authorities, the other rebel cells could survive.
His plan was rather
simple. Armed slaves would position themselves outside the houses
of whites at night. Then, other slaves would start a major fire in
the city. When the white men exited their homes to fight the fire,
the slaves would kill them.
Unfortunately for Vesey
and his followers, someone betrayed them before they could launch
the attack. One of Vesey's companions, who knew the whole plan,
turned him in to the authorities. Vesey and the other leaders were
hung, but the immensity and ingenuity of the plot terrified
southern slave owners.
Turner's Revolt--August, 1831--Nat
Turner's rebellion was the most successful of all slave revolts.
Turner, a slave preacher, inspired fellow slaves with his
apocalyptic visions of white and black angels fighting in heaven.
He gathered up his seven original followers and, without the
organization or planning of Prosser and Vesey, launched his
rebellion by entering his owner's home and killing the entire
family, save for a small infant. They moved from one farm to the
next, killing all slave-owning whites they found. As they
progressed through Southampton county, other slaves joined in the
rebellion. The next day, Turner and his eighty followers were
intercepted by the state militia. In the confrontation that
followed, Turner escaped and remained free for nearly two months.
In those two months though, the militia and white vigilantes
instituted a reign of terror over slaves in the region. Hundreds
of blacks were killed. White Virginians panicked over fears of a
larger slave revolt and soon instituted more restrictive laws
regulating slave life. Turner was eventually captured and
smaller rebellions occurred throughout the history of British
America and the United States. In the future, more of these events
will be added to this page.Sources
on American Slave Rebellions
article on Slave Rebellions
Diaspora: Slave Rebellions
Foner, Eric, and John A.
Garraty, ed. The Reader's Companion to American History.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1991.