Rebellions and Uprisings in the United States
image of Nat Turner
of 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 to attempt
escape. Prior to Florida's annexation by the United
States, many slaves escaped to that area and set up free
idea 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 slave-owners.
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
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 the
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
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,
Slave 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
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
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 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 hung.
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
on American Slave Rebellions
article on Slave Rebellions
Diaspora: Slave Rebellions
and John A. Garraty, ed. The Reader's Companion to
American History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.,