American history was marked with activities of slavery for example Africans were brought against their will to Britain’s American colonies and to the new United States of America for over two hundred years. Many separate slave revolts and conspiracies took place from the 1600’s to the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1865 and in addition to this, many slaves took part in acts of individual opposition to their slave status the actions of oppositions against the slavery were burning down buildings, damaging tools, working slowly, and the occasional act of violence against whites.
Escaping was one way they used to hurt their owners economically and attain personal freedom. Prior to Florida’s annexation by the United States, many slaves escaped to that area and set up free communities. Actions of major violence were usually led some bold leaders who could form rebellion groups. This paper focus on the lives of some of the rebellion leaders and how they organized and led slaves in actions of rebellion with intentions of demanding their liberty.
Vesey’s Uprising–1822– Denmark Vesey was born on the island of St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies in 1767. At a young age, Denmark assumed the surname of his owner, Joseph Vesey who was the captain of a slave ship. Before they settled in Charleston, South Carolina in 1783, Denmark accompanied his master on many slave-trading journeys. Denmark managed to educate himself and learned how to read. In 1800, seventeen years after his arrival in Charleston, Denmark won $1,500.00 in a street lottery and used $600.00 of his winnings to buy his freedom. Now free, he stayed on in Charleston and worked as a carpenter but Denmark was not satisfied. Though free, all blacks were looked upon as subservient, a status he was forced to adopt brought about by Charleston’s white society. (Denmark and David, 1999)
With each passing day, Denmark witnessed the continued injustice tolerated by the slaves he saw in Charleston, which drove him to seek out and read abolitionist literature. With this knowledge and the fact that he was aware of a successful slave revolt that had occurred in Haiti in the 1790s, he began to organize and plot a similar slave uprising for Charleston.
Denmark’s plan was to attack the arsenals in Charleston and seize the weapons. Upon accomplishing this, he would arm all the slaves who in turn were to burn the city and kill all the white people. His plans were to arm the slaves and storm the whites at night and then other slaves would start a major fire in the city. When the white men would move out of their homes to fight the fire, the slaves would kill them. With all the plans ready there were 9000 slaves ready to this action however, a loyal servant to the colonialist alerted the whites something that led Denmark to be unable to fulfill his plan and he consequently called it off.
About 130 blacks were arrested and brought to trail within two months. Sixty-seven in the group were accused and convicted of taking part in this slave revolt. Thirty-five of the sixty-seven, together with Denmark were hanged and the remaining thirty-two were exiled. Vesey and the other leaders were hung, but the immensity and ingenuity of the plot terrified southern slave owners. Additionally, four white men were tried and convicted of having encouraged the revolt, and were fined and imprisoned for their part.
Nut turner’s Revolt (1800-1831)-Nut Turner’s was an America slave who led the slave rebellion that resulted in 60 people dead. He brought together supporters of Southampton County Virginia. Nut Turners was particularly intelligent and new how to read and write. He was a devoted Christian who was committed to fasting and praying. He was also engrossed in reading inspirational stories in the bible. The verses he led in the bible greatly influenced him and was regarded as a prophet by his fellow slaves. Turner believed that he had a permission from God to slay his enemies with their weapons. This led him to prepare a rebellion against his owner. There was an initial plan to rebel on 4th July 1831 but it was however postponed due to illness and deliberations with his followers (Oates, 1976). On August 21, Nat began the rebellion with six followers who first attacked and killed Turners owner and his family. He then gathered arms and ammunitions knives, hatchets and other blunt objects. Though Turner never intended to kill women and children and those who surrendered, they killed a total of 60 white men and children. (Tragle, H. Irving. 1971)
While moving to the county seat at Jerusalem, the rebels met a large group of white volunteers and a trained militia who attacked them. Turner was unsuccessful to escape and go to gather other supporters and therefore he was captured on 30th of October then hanged on 5th of November after a trial. By then, some of his followers had already been hanged. His body was then beheaded, flayed and quartered. The results of his rebellion was execution of 56 blacks who were suspected to have been close to his group and close to 200 innocent blacks were beaten, tortured and murdered by an angry white mob. (Aptheker H.1966).
Haitian revolution (1791–1804)-it was the only successful revolt in the history of slave rebellions and it helped to establish Haiti as the first republic to be ruled by blacks. The catalyst to revolution that was identified as a Vodou service by historians in August 1791 performed at Bois Caiman by Duty Boukman a priest. However, it is a number of events that culminated in the most significant revolt in Africans History. Francois Dominique was a leader of the revolution who was born as a slave in Saint-Domingue. Translated from French, his name means “the awakening of all saints” or “all souls rising”. In his long struggle for independence, Toussaint led enslaved Africans to victory over Europeans, abolished slavery, and secured native control over the colonial government in 1797 while nominally governor of the colony.
He expelled the French commissioner and the British armies and then invaded Saint Domingo to free the slaves there. He wrote a constitution naming himself a governor-for-life that established a new ‘polity’ for the colony. There was conflict between the colonialist and the black slaves in Saint Domingue. Groups of run away slaves called Marrons (maroon), entrenched themselves in bastions in the colony’s mountains and forest from which they harried white-owned plantations both to secure provisions and weaponry and then avenge themselves against the inhabitants. They severally made ‘hit and run attacks’ against their white colonialists as their number grew. The Maroon leader Francois macandal, (1751-1757) left an estimated 6000 dead. Macandal drew from African traditions and religion to motivate his followers. He was later burned by the French at the stake in Cap Francais in 1758. Marrons attack triggered a revolt against French Rule and the slave holding system. The attack presaged the 1791 slave rebellion which later evolved the Haitian Revolution. They also marked the beginning of martial tradition for blacks, just as a service in the colonial militia had done for the gens de couleur.
Though the colonial authorities were challenged by the marrons actions, they effectively repelled the attacks with the gens de couleur co-operation. The gens de couleur had a more interest of gaining equality with the white colonialists and desire for power. This eventually shattered the arrangement in 1789. Between the years 1800 and 1802, Toussaint Louverture tried to rebuild the collapsed economy of Haiti and reestablish commercial contacts with the United States and Great Britain. His rule helped the colony to have a taste of freedom which after his death in exile, was gradually destroyed during the successive reigns by a series of despots. In 1807, slave trade was permanently abolished in Britain and Haitian stood as a model for achieving emancipation for slaves in the United States. Louveture has been celebrated as a hero to today. (Denmark and David, 1999)
The history of U.S. slavery infringed the essential Freedom of the black people and denied other human right. The efforts to free the slaves were spearheaded by selfless brave leaders who believed on themselves and had inspiration from their religious values. To some extent they manifested their desire through force and rebellion. Their efforts were frustrated and disillusioned by betrayal of their own groups and fierce revenge activities by their colonial authorities. The culmination of their fight for their right was murder, execution imprisonment, torture, harassment and fear.
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Burnett, C. and Kenneth S, 2002. Greenberg Nut turner a troublesome property.
Denmark V. and David R.1999. The Buried History of America’s Largest Slave
Oates. S.B. 1976. The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s Fierce Rebellion. New York:
Harper and Row.
Tragle, H. Irving. 1971. The Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831: A Compilation of Source
Material. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
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