Slave Revolts


Slave Revolts Essay, Research Paper


During four hundred years of slavery, black people did not accept the idea as easily as many thought. When Europeans took thousands of Africans from their native land against their will, one can only expect resistance. Through the struggle, enslaved Africans formed slave rhymes, stories, and planned revolts to fight against the tyranny of the slave owners. Enslaved African use forms of rebellion to out smart their masters and sometimes used violence for redemption for their inhumane treatment.

In the beginning of slavery, whites feared the rebellion of blacks therefore they used tactics to control and to place fear minds of the slaves. A basic device of control whites used against blacks was to make them feel like they were inferior to whites. Whites also made Negroes believe they were descendants of Cain or the snake in the book of Genesis in the bible. The church also had a large contribution to the mindset of slaves.

The church taught slaves that God wanted them to hold a lower level in society. The church also taught slaves that they would spend an eternity in Hell if they did not perform their daily tasks. Church sermons usually described beatings and lashings as a correction. It did not matter if the slave deserved it or not, the church s justification was that God wills it. Military activity commonly concerned most whites in the regard to black slaves.

In 1727 and 1728, escaped slaves were aiding the Yamasee and Lower Creek Indians in Granville County. (Aptheker, American Slave Revolts, p. 19-57) During the Revolutionary War, blacks found the open opportunity to lead slave uprisings. In 1974 in Georgia, six men and four women led an uprising murdering the overseer, the wife, and wounded the carpenter. They continued to neighboring houses where they murdered three men and wounded others. The British enlisted slaves for their own military force offering the rights to their freedom, because of fear of the slaves, the colonies enlisted their own slaves to serve. (Carroll, Slave Insurrections in the United States p. 37-46)

Everyday slaves used some form of resistance to fight back against their masters. The most common use of resistance was to sabotage something of the masters in some shape, form, or fashion. Like mistreating the stock animals and the devastation of farm tools. Sabotage was to hurt their master financially for revenge of earlier mistreatment. Rhymes were told by slaves in order to fool their master and to communicate with other slaves. Some rhymes such as the Judge Buzzard or Nobody Looking. Spirituals were used by slaves to communicate with one another like Harriet Tubman, who used Negro spirituals to lead over 300 slaves to freedom. (Cheek, Black Resistance before the Civil War, p. 56-80)

Slave rebellion was also very common on slave ships. In 1731, a ship returning from Rhode Island from the Guinea coast, slaves on board killed all members of the crew except the captain and his son. In fear of starting a slave revolt, runaway slaves when caught were punished severely. (Carroll, Slave Insurrections in the United States, p. 13-26) In 1722 near the Rappahannock River in Virginia, two hundred Negroes armed themselves with the intent to murder the white people while they were in church. Sundays were usually when most revolts were planned, because slaves were not carefully monitored. (Apthenker, American Negro Slave Revolts p. 53-71)

In 1741, New York with a population of twelve thousand, one-sixth are black will forever be linked to history which is known as The New York Conspiracy of 1741. A proclamation was made on Thanksgiving, which declared since the citizens had experienced a hard winter, lost their cattle, and their houses destroyed. Blacks in New York often made alliances with the white criminals who were looked down upon by other whites. These lower class whites uses blacks for personal gain such as robbery and other crimes feeling their minds with false promises. Negroes were executed two per week; over the false promises of lower class white men. (Carroll, Slave Insurrections of the United States p. 26-36)

Out of the great slave revolts in American history, the planned revolt of General Gabriel comes to mind. Gabriel, a slave owned by Thomas Prosser was a twenty-five year old blacksmith and was very educated among the slaves. He was knowledgeable about military science and tactics of warfare. Gabriel believed he was a child of destiny, sent by Jehovah to bring redemption to his people. Other slaves such as Jack Bowler, John Scott, his brother Martin, George Smith, and Sam Bird were also educated accomplices of Gabriel.

The plan was to kill the neighboring planter Mr. Johnson following the rest of the neighborhood. After that was done, they were to march through Richmond. They were going to seize arms and recruit one thousand men in Richmond and several hundred from neighboring towns. The plan was to kill all whites except the French, Quakers, Methodist, and poor white people who could not afford slaves. Two slaves Tom and Pharaoh revealed Gabriel s plot, he was later caught and hung. (Carroll, Slave Insurrections in the United States p. 48-57) Other known revolt leaders such as Nat Turner, who led seventy men to kill fifty-seven whites the most in a slave rebellion in recorded history. Denmark Vesey who planned to seize arms to take control over Charleston, South Carolina. (Higginson, Black Rebellion p. 103-164)

In conclusion, people such as Nat Turner, Gabriel, Denmark Vessey and others rebelled against slavery in order to give blacks a voice. It may not have been the most peaceful approach, but someone would have done it. Negro spirituals and slave rhymes make up the rich history of African-Americans. It tells a tale of the path taken to the present. The rebellion of black slaves would forever leave an everlasting mark on Black culture and American history.

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