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A Chronology of Slave Actions in the United States

By Joseph E. Holloway

While there were at least 313 slave actions, when compared to Brazil, Latin America, where there were literally thousands, the reasons and conditions for those were determined by geography, history and policy. In this analysis of 313 slave actions they have been divided into three historical periods for analysis: the pre-colonial period from 1526 to 1691; the colonial period from 1700 to 1800, and finally the antebellum period from 1800 to 1860. In each of these periods slave actions had a certain characteristics in that we find a variety of types that analyzed a little later. Statistically primary revolts were less numerous than secondary for obvious reasons.

However the use of a statistical tool sheds light on the many complexities of how enslaved Africans responded to their oppression, and demonstrate a continual dissatisfaction with the most unfavorable conditions. In spite of the most unfavorable condition enslaved Africans such as Gabriel Prosser in 1800 used the rhetoric of the American Revolution to justify his movement, i.e., Blacks had natural human rights to fight for their freedom and liberation from enslavement, as American Colonists had the right to fight for their freedom and independence from England. One of the more interesting characteristics of the slave revolts in the later period was that the leaders unveiled elaborate plans for the liberation of slaves, using religion as an ideological basis for liberation and introducing their own Black theology of liberation from slave religion.

The history of slave revolts in North America begins with the first Spanish settlement in what is now South Carolina in 1526 and did not end until the Civil War in 1865. Throughout the 17th and 18th century enslaved Africans continued to struggle against their oppression in order to achieve freedom from enslavement. One revolt was not the revolution. Each incident of resistance did not result in immediate emancipation, but they contributed toward the creation of a moral consciousness which made emancipation possible by 1865. The slave’s reaction to their enslavement took many forms. They covered a wide variety of reactions including plans to overthrow the slave regime to individual’s acts of sabotage with the aim to destroy the slave master and his property.

Enslaved Africans resisted throughout the transatlantic slave trade, they resisted slavery from its inception in the New World. Enslaved Africans resisted captured and enslavement in Africa, and later on slave ships coming to the New World, they resisted in the plantation fields and in the Big House and they organized slave actions against their oppression. They fought for their freedom and liberation and were killed and died in the cause of freedom. Sometimes they even committed infanticide and suicide as a form of resistance. They fought and lost against insurmountable odds, but in the end they won because their struggle and resistance transformed the minds of Americans and brought on the Civil War that finally abolition the institution of slavery. One revolt was not the revolution for liberation and freedom, but collectively they contribution to events that would eventually lead to their liberation and freedom from bondage.

Texas had 16 which are 7 percent. North Carolina had 17 also 7 percent, Georgia 18 that is 8 percent. Kentucky 11, 5 percent, Tennessee. 9, 4 percent. Pennsylvania 4, 2 percent, Arkansas 4, 2 percent, and Florida with 6, 3 percent, New York City 2, 1 percent. Out of 313 slave actions 77 would be in the primary category and 236 were secondary type representing 75 percent of all slave actions. Again, Virginia ranks the highest in both primary and secondary actions followed by South Carolina and Mississippi. Secondary slave actions represented 59 percent of all slave actions and most of these were plots that never advanced beyond the planning stage. The following is the new organizational model for slave actions.

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