Little Known Facts About Slavery

Who Sold Whom?

To quote once again the words of freed slave Ottobah Cugoano, who was writing in the late 18th century, we find the answer: “But I my own, to the shame of my own countrymen, that I was first kidnapped and betrayed by my own complexion, who were the first cause of my exile and slavery ; but if there were no buyers there would be no sellers.”
Sins of The Fathers: A Study of the Atlantic Traders 1441-1807″, by James Pope-Hennessey, p. 174-5.

The Other reasons for African slavery were, as we know, a certain number of anti-social crimes, such as adultery or theft. There was also, of course, slavery as the fruit of military conquest. But, until the Europeans came upon the scene, slaves were regarded inside Africa as useful and helpful people, whose ownership carried with it specific obligations – to feed, to clothe, to shelter and protect. To king and noblemen they were also a status symbol, and necessary to the maintenance of rank. This theme of the protection afforded by a great man to his slaves resounded throughout town and village life, and formed a parallel to the serf system of feudal Europe.
Ibid., p. 176.

The Confusing Origin of Lynch Laws

Further, it will appear later, the death penalty was not at first infliced under lynch-law; originally, lynching was synonymous with whipping.
“Lynch-Law: An Investigation Into the History of Lynching in the United States” By James Cutler, p. 9.

A general idea of the history of lynch-law in the United States is obtained by noting the definition of the term have appeared form time to time in the dictionaries. Brande’s Dictionary of Science, Literature, and Art (1842) contains the following: “Lynch-Law. The irregular and revengeful species of justice administered by the populace in some parts of the United States is said to have been so called from a Virginian farmer of the name of Lynch, who took the law into his hands on some occasion, by chasing a thief, tying him to a tree, and flogging him with his own hands.”

Some important changes are noticeable in e definition attached to lynch-law forty years later. The Progressive Dictionary of the English Language, edited by Samuel Fallows and published at Chicago in 1885, gives this definition for the verb lynch: “To punish without the forms of law; specifically to hang by mob-law.”
Ibid., p. 10

According to one account, , given more or less endorsement in the encyclopedias, lynch-law owes its name to James Fitzstephen Lynch, mayor and warden of Galway, Ireland. He is the famous “Warden of Galway” who tried condemned , and executed his own son in the year 1493.
Ibid., p. 13.

In the council books of Galway the is said to be a minute that “James Lynch, mayor of Galway, hanged his own son out of the window foe defrauding and killing strangers, without martial or common law, to show a good example to prosperity.”
Ibid., p. 15.

“In the determination of origins it is frequesntly impossible to obtain direct evidence bearing on the point in question. In this case, there is direct evidence for connecting the name of Charles Lynch with the origin of “lynch-law”.
Ibid., p.32.

“The Lynch Law, as it is termed, originated in Virginia a the time of the American Revolution, and was first adopted by Colonel Lynch against a lawless band of tories adn desperadoes, who infested the country at the base of the Blue Ridge.”
Ibid., p.33

The fact remains, however, that no contemporaneous evidence has yet been discovered which will explain why Lynch’s name came to be applied to the practice. We know definitely only that the form of the expression was at first Lynch’s law, and that tradition, supported by all evidence that we have, ascribes its origin to Colonel Lynch. Equally certain it is that Lynch’s law originally signified a whipping for reformatory purposes with more or less disregard for its legality, and was so used at a time subsequent to the American Revolution and not before that time.

Ibid., p.40.


Dehumanization of Women and the Life of the Enslaved Child

It was conventional wisdom in the South that the best way to get a good house servant was to raise one. Often, children were taken from their parents to sleep in the Big House as well as to eat, work and play there. Their families were replaced by the families of their owners, with their position in those families clearly defined.

In many ways, children who were taken into the house were fortunate. Certainly they ate better and had better clothing and more comfortable working conditions than children in the field. Some became pets of the slaveholding family and developed what could, without much of a stretch, be called friendships. At the same time, both children and adults who served in the house were on call twenty-fours hours a day. They had not a moment that was completely their own. And they were in no less danger of violence than a field hand. In the house, as in the field, discipline was swift and often cruel. Too, southern plantations had their share of outright sadists. Without the constraints of law or social disapproval, these people, both women and men, were free to commit extremes of physical violence on even the youngest slaves, especially when they were we separated from their families..

“A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women In America”, p. 70

Children who were house servants also missed out on the support and camaraderie of the slave quarters, with its powerful sense of community. That was no small loss. To enslaved Americans, community meant survival – emotional, psychological, and often physical survival. They were under constant assaults from the white world, which did everything it could to make them “good slaves”. A good slave, obviously, is not a healthy, secure, self-possessed person. Self-respect was a treasure to be cherished in the quarters.

It was a quality that parents worked hard to instill in their children and that the slave community encouraged in all its members. Separated from that atmosphere, a child was vulnerable to all sorts of attacks on her sense of self-worth.

Ibid., p. 71

The development of a community is one of the most powerful of all survival skills, and it is a skill that Black women have mastered.

Another skill mastered by enslaved women was protection of the inner person. A black mother taught her daughter to develop two faces. She was to seem accommodating and tractable to the slaveholder, smiling and ready to please. At the same time, she was to have a secret place inside here full of self-respect. Janie might learn at the end of a whip to call a white baby “Marster Henry”, but there was a part of her that could laugh at the silliness of it or be contemptuous or angry or whatever would keep her own sense of self intact.

As daughters got older, of course, there were other lessons to be taught. Even very young girls were subject to sexual abuse from white men. This was a reality black parents faced from the moment a girl baby was born. There was no real defense against it, but black mothers counseled their daughters in modesty and dignity, in the hope that those qualities might provide some protection. They also taught them lessons of guile and trickery. There was nothing dishonorable in deceiving the slaveholder. Indeed, the ability to overcome force by the use of wits was highly valued one in the slave community. Certainly, if a girl could protect her sexual integrity, anything was justified.

Ibid., p. 71


Take a look around you. Look at your neighbors, the merchants and the other people you do business with, the minister at the church on the corner, the people who teach your children. Now, go a little further afield. Look at the people you see on the evening news: the executives of corporations who put profits before public health concerns, the drug dealers, the sex offenders and child abusers. Imagine that all of these people were allowed to own other people. Think about it. Let it really sink in. Anyone of them could own a person who, if she ran away, could be tracked down by the police and returned to her owner The could own people who would not be allowed to testify against them in court, no matter what they did. And they would automatically own the children of the women who were their property.

“A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women In America”, p. 67

Indeed, owning a slave could make a good person, or at any rate, an ordinary person, bad. In the first studies of rape, which appeared the 1970s, a strange phenomenon came to light. It might be expected that he greatest brutality would occur when a woman is raped by one man and the necessity for overpowering her is great. In fact, however, by far the greatest brutality occurs in gang rapes, when overpowering the woman is hardly an issue. The brutality, it appears, is part of the process of dehumanizing the woman. It is essential that no one of the men should stop, see the woman suddenly as someone’s sister or daughter or wife, look at the other members of the group and cry out, “What are you doing to this person? What kind of monsters are you?” Brutality toward slaves, too, was a method of dehumanization, one more way of making them seem less than human so that on one would cry out the word “monster.”

Ibid., p. 68.

Childhood, for most slaves, lasted only a few years. During those years, they played as other children do. They jumped rope and climbed trees and played games, And then, on a heartbreakingly short time, they went to work,. Some enslaved children began to do small chores when they were four or five. By seven, many slave children were working regular hours. Most ten-year-olds were considered “hands”. Girls usually began working at an earlier age than their brothers, and they shifted from the jobs accorded children to their adult jobs earlier as well.

Slave children did a number of jobs. Both boys and girls were enlisted for child care. Mothers, of course, worked all day. On a small plantation, the slaveholder’s wife might care for the babies and the toddlers, with help from slightly older children. Other places, a slave who was too old for fieldwork might be assigned the child-care duties, again with the help of children of seven or eight years. On some plantations, children of that age took care of their younger brothers and sisters alone.

Children, of course, are not the best caretakers of other children.

Ibid., p.69-70

In many ways, children who were taken into the house were fortunate. Certainly they ate better and had better clothing and more comfortable conditions than children in the field. Some became “pets” of the slaveholding family and developed relationships that could, without much of a stretch, be called friendships. At the same time, both children and adults who served in the house were on call twenty-four hours a day. They had not a moment that was completely their own. And they were in no less danger of violence than a field hand. In the house, as in the field, “discipline” was swift and often cruel. Too, southern plantations had their share of outright sadists. Without the constraints of law or social disapproval, these people, both women and men, were free to commit extremes of physical violence on even the youngest slaves, especially when they were separated from their families.

Ibid., p. 70.

Historical Misrepresentations in the Old West

The institution of slavery in America – while not unusual in human history – was nonetheless unique in the way it was practiced in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. To begin with, never before had such large numbers of people been ripped from their homeland and transported over vast distances for deliver to a destination so alien and so far removed from their origins. Neither had any other group been enslaved with such exclusivity to their masters with no hope of release. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans granted education and freedom as eventual rewards to their slaves.

P.1, “Black Pioneers – Images of the Black Experience on the North American Frontier” by John W. Ravage.

Much was going on in the Old West of both the States and Canada that stretched from Kansas to California and from Alberta to New Mexico. Opportunities for those with able bodies and minds seemed to abound, and thousands of former slaves decided to try for their shares of the American dream.

Ibid., p. 3.

As opportunities for employment began to stratify, entrepreneurs and hustlers dominated the economic life of the new cities and towns. Blacks, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and individuals of mixed blood were at the bottom of the job ladder, having to take whatever was left over.

Or so it seemed to historians of the early twentieth century as they looked back on these times. As with all such generalizations, there were many and varied exceptions – for example, the actual roles played by African American. Late in the twentieth century, we are only beginning to realize the full range of activities in which the pioneers of the vast two-thirds sour our continent engaged. Heretofore, prejudices, myopia, cultural insensitivity, invalid surveys – call them what you will – have dominated much of the examination of this period of American history. We have often seen what we wanted to see rather than what was there. The popular media of the time – as well as the pervasive longing for a sense of identity – compounded the problem by producing stories about heroes who either never existed or were dramatically modified to appeal to the sentiments of mainly white readers of newspapers, buyers of penny-dreadfuls, motion picture audiences, and – much later – television viewers.

Ibid., p. 4-5

As perspectives became distorted, it was nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction. Minorities became less and less important to history in texts, popular entertainments, and casual conversations. Nonwhites ceased to exist, essentially, in these aspects of our nation’s history. Slavery, to book and penny-dreadful readers (and television and film viewers of the twentieth century), became little more than dramatic device, – a piece of theater that white readers barely could imagine let alone experience.

Ibid., p. 6.

In all fairness, this erasure of nonanglos from our background as a nation was probably not done solely through malevolence; it may not have been simple oversight either. Rather, it seems that much of the history of this continent involved superior invading forces from foreign cultures taking life and property from those who were already living here. In order to avoid a depressing self-concept, the dominant, white society has systematically sought to justify these acts of aggression. After all, it does not fit well with the American ideal to think that theft, rape, and – at times – wanton destruction were the principal means by which we grew and prospered as a nation.

This self-defensive attitude of Manifest Destiny has a calming effect for many. For example, it encourages the acceptance of the inevitability of one society’s domination by another as growth or natural law. This rationale was far more pleasing to some than the alternatives: that one group was merely stronger, more technically advance, or richer than those it came to dominate.

In actuality, African Americans played the same roles in the development of western North America as did other ethnic groups. They fought and died, raised children, killed and were killed, smuggled, lied, whored; they were god-loving and god-fearing, lawmen and outlaws, mountaineers and townspeople, millionaires and paupers, they built cities and towns and destroyed them, too; they danced, cried fought Indians, protected travelers, and so forth.

Ibid., p. 7.


Black Women in the Unsettled West

One of the more common occupations of early black settlers in the West was that of postmaster. Apparently, this s was not a job coveted by residents whites, probably due to its long hours and low pay. Many areas of the West, however, could boast of the black men and women who opened post offices in the far-flung settlements.

p.59. “Black Pioneers – Images of the Black Experience on the North American Frontier” by John W. Ravage.

The number of documented ex-slave women who came west is small since most were the wives and daughters of men whose names – if recorded at all – were forgotten over time. Mary Fields, however, was a noteworthy exception.

A native of Tennessee (born a slave circa 1832), Mary Fields moved to Montana in the company of Ursuline nuns after escaping slavery. Because she left the care of the nuns when she was a teenager, her life was not recorded in great detail. What is known, however, ranks her among the most interesting, individualistic, and determined women of the era.

Six feet tall and weighing two hundred pounds, with a girth to match, she brooked little challenge in her various jobs. Barkeeper, mail carrier, brawler, whorehouse owner, and a cigar-smoking, Wells Fargo shotgun rider in Montana and northern Wyoming (maybe even swinging north into Canada on occasion), she was a composite of personality traits necessary for survival in those days and places. Her high spirits and tough lifestyle cast her as a truly unforgettable character of the American West.

If one state has remained in peoples imagination as symbolic of he Rocky Mountain West, it is surely Colorado. Prospering and growing with the gold and silver booms of the mid-nineteenth century, Colorado saw a wild melange of railroaders, mountain men, cowboys, whores, ranchers, miners, hoteliers, lawmakers, soldiers, guides, hunters, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, teachers, newspaper editors, ministers, and more. And all of these were black.

Among those who dedicated their lives to the betterment of others, in ways most people would find most difficult to emulate, was “Aunt” Clara Brown.

Born a slave in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, in 1806, she was sold as a three-year-old to a Mr. Brown from Logan , Kentucky. Although the history is cloudy, she found her way to Kansas Territory as an “exoduster” in the great out-migration of black southerners during the late 1850s, apparently heading west with those caught up in the Rocky Mountain gold rush.


A frugal woman who kept her own counsel, she began to acquire inexpensive land around Central City as well as around the cattle and Indian town of Denver, consisting at the time of little more than canvas-covered building and teepees around Cherry Creek.

She frequently grubstaked miners who had no other means of support while they looked for gold in the mountains west to Denver, and was repaid handsomely for her kindness and generosity by those who struck pay dirt. She used any profits to continue her philanthropy among the need and to increase her landholdings.

p. 62

Mary Ellen Pleasant, and early pioneering woman, was better known as “Mammy Please”. She resented the appellation, considering it an overly familiar form of address. Called an “angel of the West” by many for her work with troubled and abused women, men and children, she was a mercurial businesswoman known far more widely than in her home base of San Francisco in the late 1800s.

A self proclaimed capitalist, she was partners with Thomas Bell, co-founder of the first Bank of California. As a businesswoman, Mary Ellen was most likely cunning, cynical, and calculating, but she was also soft-hearted by nature in helping many individuals in need of financial or personal; support. An intriguing rumor: she may have murdered Thomas Bell and plotted to kill her foster son.


Black Free and Enslaved Sailers

In the universe of southern and Caribbean plantation slaves, ships and boats were a pipeline to freedom and a refuge for slaves on the lam. Worldly and often multilingual slave sailors regularly subverted plantation discipline. Among northern free blacks, struggling during the critical first two generations after the American Revolution to create a footprint for freedom, seafaring became one of the most common male occupations. Maritime slaves bought before the Revolution to enhance captains’ status and reduce the payrolls had established that precedent, as had those slaves who negotiated with masters the right t hire themselves for voyages. A postwar shipping boom that stretched into the early nineteenth century had created the jobs free black so desperately needed. Maritime wages provided crucial support for black families and underwrote organizations such as churches and benevolent societies through which black America established an institutional presence and voice.

p.4, Black Jacks ” African American Seamen in the Age of the Sail”, by W. Jeffrey Bolster.

Seamen wrote the first 6 autobiographies of blacks published in English before 1800. Finding their voices in the swirling currents of international maritime labor, seafaring men fired the opening salvo of the black abolitionist attack and fostered creation of a corporate black identity. Blacks joined with white seamen in a common effort to balk the captains and merchants who abused them – although black sailors knew full well that race rarely disappeared, even among shipmates.

Ibid., 4-5.

Maritime work not only provided wages and allowed widely dispersed black people a means of communication, but also affected the process through which free people of color shaped their identities. Seafaring address squarely the duality of being black and American. Beginning in 1796, the federal government issued Seamen’s Protection Certificates to merchant mariners, defining them as “citizens” of the United States, a nicety to which African American leaders pointedly referred during debates on blacks’ citizenship status.

Ibid., p.5

In 1803, black men (mostly black) filled about 18 percent of American seamen’s jobs. The tide then turned at mid-century. With American Emancipation… a new and distinct constellation of forces relegated maritime work to a bit part in black life. Freedmen in 1865 could not turn to an expanding maritime industry with a history of color toleration, as had northern black males following the Revolution, because the American merchant marine was in decline. White southerners, moreover, were determined to keep blacks on the land to make a crop. And mid-century changes in waterfront hiring practices already had begun to squeeze African Americans out of the maritime labor force.

Ibid., p.6.

Racist exclusion did not keep all blacks from the sea after Reconstruction. There were explores like Matthew Henson, who shipped out during the 1880s and sought the North Pole with Commodore Robert Perry in 1909; visionaries like Marcus Garvey, who founded the Black Star Steamship Line in 1919; and writers like Langston Hughes, who voyaged to Africa in 1923 and called his autobiography The Big Sea.

Ibid., p.6.

The Mighty Nation of the Niger

Before the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade, a great civilization arose along the Niger River where it brushes up against the southwestern Sahara. Established by the Songhai, a nation of black-skinned scholars, warriors, merchants, farmers, and artisans, the empire that bore their name became well known throughout North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Europe for its power and wealth. The Songhai was the third and greatest of three black kingdoms that waxed and waned in this region between the 8th and 16th centuries. its predecessors left their names, and reflected gory, to the modern African nations of Ghana and Mali. Sometime around AD 801, caravans of traders from the lands north of the desert brought south a new religion, Islam, which played a role in shaping the states of this region.

The empire’s founding ruler was Sunni Ali Ber – Ali the Great, of the Sunni dynasty. Sunni Ali began his campaign of conquest in 1468 by taking Timbuktu, which was then ruled by the Tuarges a nomadic Berber people. Sunni Ali’s next target, the city of Djenne, did not surrender until 1473, after a siege that lasted, according to histories, for seven years, seven months, and seven days. Admiring the courageous stand of the city’s defenders Sunni Ali annexed Djenne but left its king on his throne and its population unharmed.

As Sunni Ali consolidated his new realm, he strove to reconcile the beliefs of the rural folk who believe in their traditional deities, with those of the Muslim city dwellers. He successfully maintained a balance between the two factions for the duration of his 27-year reign.

Sunni Ali’s son and successor, Sunni Baru, however, paid little obedience to the prevailing Islam of the cities. His actions fractured the fragile unity that his father had worked so long to preserve, and, acting in the defense of their faith, Muslim insurgents deposed him in 1493, just 6 months after he inherited the throne. The leader of the rebels, Muhammad ibn Abubakr Toure, became the new emperor and ruled the Songhai Empire, expanding its domains for 35 prosperous years.

Upon gaining and understanding of Islamic government Toure decided to construct his administration according to its principles, although the Songhai monarchy itself rested on a traditional African concept of divine kingship. To ensure the defense of his realm, Askia Muhammad first established a fill-time professionals army. But the empire’s true strength lay in a social structure that spelled out everyone’s duties. And with a standing army guarding its borders, the empires farmers, merchants, fishermen, livestock breeders, and artisans could concentrate on being productive in their vocations. Even the griots- members of a hereditary caste of storytellers who preserved the people’s history by passing orally from generation to generation- had a responsibility in imperial society beyond their traditional role. The griots were expected to weave glorious tales about the empire’s past military exploits to boost the morale of the Songhai soldiers before battle and in the heat of combat. Slaves occupied the lowest rung of society, but their servitude took an African form in which race we irrelevant and bondsmen were no less human than other workers, Slaves were not simply units of property but could rise on the basis of their service and had the security of knowing that their children could not be sold away from them.

His death triggered cycles of dynastic infighting. Weakened by internal dissension, the empire proved easy pickings for a small Moroccan army that ventured across the Sahara in 1591.


-African Americans: Voices of Triumph – Perseverance-, Time/Life books


The Rise Of Cotton

Before the 1790s Slavery seemed to be a dying institution. Most Northern states had set emancipation in motion and in the Chesapeake states of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, the philosophy of the American Revolution – the idea that all men were created equal, with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – also motivated planters to free their slaves. Of crucial importance to the act of freeing slaves in the Chesapeake was the decline of tobacco. Years of overplanting had left the land worn out. As farmers produced less tobacco and turned instead to more profitable grains their need for large numbers of slaves decreased. Rather than assume the cost of caring for their slaves, many farmers freed them instead.
“Let My People Go – African Americans 1804-1860”, Deborah Gray White, p. 15.

But the introduction of cotton, which increase the demand for slaves south of the Chesapeake, caused a hurried change in attitude. Before the turn of the 19th century, there was little cotton production in the South. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin changed that, and with it also the history of Black America. The cotton gin made the production of the heartier short-staple cotton profitable. Before the invention of the cotton gin it took a slave a day to clean a pound of the short-staple cotton. With the gin, by contrast, the slave could clean up to 50 pounds a day.

Short-staple cotton, unlike long-staple cotton, also had the advantage of not being so delicate. It could be, and was, planted all over the land south of Virginia. And it was in demand throughout the world. It was not long before cotton became the principal cash crop of the South and of the nation. In 1790 the South produced only 3,135 bales of cotton. On the eve of the Civil War, production peaked at 4.8 million bales. Once cotton gave slavery a new lease on life, slaves who were of no use in the Upper South were not set free but sold to the Lower South. That meant that a good many slaves were born in Virginia, Maryland or South Carolina, were likely to die in Mississippi, Alabama or Louisiana. The sale and transportation of Black people within the Unites States thus became big business.
Ibid., pp.16-18.

Protests, Organizations and Demonstrations

While at Atlanta University in 1899, W.E.B. Du Bois was shaken out of his academic complacency by the horrific lynching of Sam Hose in April of that year. Sam Hose had killed a white farmer during an argument and was brutally lynched and burned to death by a mob of over two thousand people. After his charred body was dragged to the ground, men, women and children struggled wit one another to tale home pieces of his burned flesh as souvenirs. Deeply disturbed by the incident, Du Bois began to pen his landmark book, The Souls of Black Folks (1903) in which he criticized Booker T. Washington’s accommodations and educational policies.
1001, p. 128.

Most white Americans had no inkling of the growing dissatisfaction with Booker T. Washington in the ranks of Americas Black intellectual class until a near riot broke out at a Washington address to the National Negro Business League in Boston. Boston was the intellectual stronghold of William Monroe Trotter, Washington’s most outspoken critic. Upon being introduces, Washington was met with commotion, catcalls and whistles. Police advanced into the crowd and were attacked by women with hat pins and pocketbooks. Trotter was arrested and convicted for conspiracy to disturb the peace. The riot go so much media coverage that afterward it would be hard for Washington to claim he alone spoke for the African American.
1001,p. 128-9.

In 1908 a riot broke out in Springfield, Illinois, after an African American shot and killed a while police officer. A mob broke into the jail where the accused was awaiting trial, killed him, hanged him from a telephone pole, and shot the body hundreds of times. After the lynching, the mob destroyed the Black section of the city. William English Walling, a well-known writer, who reported from the scene of the Springfield riot in a article entitled “Race War in the North “issued a call in 1909 for a select number of socialists, African American protest leaders, and concerned citizens to come together for the purpose of founding a large body to oppose such atrocities. Thus the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an interracial organization to fight for equal rights for African Americans, was created. In addition to Walling, some of the more prominent founding members were Joel Spingarn, Mary White Ovington and W.E.B. DuBois.
1001, p. 129-30.

On July 28, 1917, thousands of African Americans silently marched through New York City to Madison Square Garden to protest lynching and the East St. Louis race riots. Without uttering a sound, the marchers carried anti lynching banners and distributing leaflets that proclaimed: “We march because we want to make impossible a repetition of Waco, Memphis and East St. Louis, by rousing the conscience of the country and to bring the murderers of our brothers, sisters and innocent children to justice.”
1001, p. 130.

In 1884 Ida B. Wells sued the Cleveland and Ohio railroads for making her leave first class accommodations for which she had paid. She won in state court, but it was eventually overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court. In 1892, Wells asserted that it was a “thread-bare” lie that most Black men were lynched for raping white women. She also hinted that a closer examination would show that the white women associated with lynching victims had been voluntarily associated with Black men. Because of these remarks the office of her newspaper, Free Speech, was destroyed and Wells was told not to return to Memphis. She then launched a career in writing, her books, Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in All Its Phases and A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States, were two of the first books to compile statistics on and analyze the causes of lynching. The statistics bore out her contentions, only one-third of those lynched were even accused of rape and most were lynched for acts of economic, educational, or political assertiveness. She was politically allied with W.E.B Du Bois and his Niagara Movement, and critical of Booker T. Washington’s accomodationist posture toward southern violence.

“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart, p. 125-6.

On December 18, 1985 at a Cotton States’ International Exposition in Atlanta, Booker T. Washington delivered his famous “Atlanta Compromise” speech. Washington’s speech renounced the attempt of Blacks under Reconstruction to exercise their political rights and assert their social equality with whites. Rather than protest, Washington recommended that Blacks avoid challenging segregation and disfranchisement, work diligently at the agricultural and business occupations open to them, acquire a much education and economic power as the south would allow them.

Ibid,p. 126.

Despite his public disavowal of Black political resistance, Booker T. Washington actually worked behind the scenes to defend African American political and social rights. Secretly, he financially supported efforts to end racial discrimination on Pullman cars in southern states. He also provided money to lawyers seeking to overturn statutes in Texas and Alabama that excluded African American form participating in juries.

Ibid, p. 126-7.

Booker T. Washington’s moderate public stance against racism angered many African American intellectuals who formed organizations, like the National Association of Colored Men and the American Negro Academy, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ida B. Wells was perhaps one of the earliest to publicly criticize Washington’s single-minded public endorsement of Black economic advancement in the South. She argued that following Washington’s counsel to forgo demand for civil rights and seek economic parity would increase one’s chances of being lynched, as had been the case in Memphis in 1892.

Ibid,p. 127.

Of considerable significance was the formation of the National Association of Colored Women, an outgrowth of the local women’s club movement that had begun in earnest in the 1890s. In the spring of 1895, several clubs joined together to form National Association of Colored Women, in part to respond to the increasingly negative portrayals of Black women in the press. Another reason for the formation was the rise of segregation in white women’s clubs, which before the 1890s has freely admitted African American women.

Ibid, p.127


The Antislavery Movement

1/1/1808 – International Slave Trade was abolished.
7/4/1827 – All slaves in New York became free under gradual emancipation law.
8/1/1834 – Slavery in British West Indies ends.
“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart, p.74

Even the Antislavery Movement contained instances of discrimination and segregation of African Americans. When Antislavery Women met at their first convention in New York in 1837, the society debated the propriety of having African American women in the organization and only allowed them to only after considerable debate. Some African Americans criticized that most antislavery people wished to have all-White antislavery societies. Most antislavery societies were more concerned about ending slavery and thereby removing its sin form the conscience of Whites, than fighting against the racial prejudice that shackled free Negroes in the North.
Ibid., p. 75.

A split occurred in the American Antislavery Society in 1840 when William Lloyd Garrison seized control by stacking the election with votes from Boston. The split occurred ideologically between those, like Garrison, who believed in advocating political action as the best method of attaining abolition and those who favored appeals based on moral principles. In addition, some in the American Anti-Slavery Society opposed the policy of allowing women to speak to men at the meetings. Those who supported political action and opposed women speakers broke off to form the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, which became the nucleus of the Liberty Party, which campaigned on antislavery plank in the early 1840s.
Ibid., p. 75-6.

The Georgia Legislature offered $4,000 reward for the arrest to William Garrison, editor of The Liberator, Vigilance committees in North Carolina offered $1,500 for the arrest on anyone distributing The Liberator or David Walker’s Appeal. A Georgian subscriber toThe Liberator was dragged form his home, tarred and feathered,s et afire, dunked in the river, tied to a post and then whipped.
Ibid., p. 76.

In 1873 Elijah Lovejoy, the White publisher of abolitionist literature, was murdered by a mob that attacked and destroyed for the fourth time the printing press he used to publish The Alton Observer. Even in death, Lovejoy was a martyr for freedom, as man joined in the struggle nor only against slavery but against those forces in American society that sought to curtail free speech.
Ibid., p. 76.

William Lloyd Garrison’s followers (“Garrisonians”) began to advocate passive resistance and nonviolence. When Frederick Douglass returned from England in 1847 he found his freedom of expression and advancement limited by Garrison. After a year of complying with Garrison’s wishes, Douglass moved to Rochester, NY and published his own newspaper, and encouraged Blacks to take a more active role in the antislavery movement.
Ibid., p. 76, 7.

Legal Status of Slavery

The Robert Sweat case of 1640, a man who had fathered a child with an African American woman servant was brought to trial. The woman was whipped, Sweat had to perform “public penance for his offense”.
“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart, p.64

Black and white servants often banded together to run away from servitude.

In 1641 Graweere, an African American servant, was able to successfully appeal to the court for permission to buy the freedom of his child. By the turn of the century such a purchase would be largely unthinkable.

The problem of the status of interracial children was solve when a 1662 Virginia act stated: “Children got by and Englishman upon a Negro woman shall be bond forever according to the condition of the mother…” Prior to this traditional English law held that the status of a child followed that of the father.

By the beginning of the 18th c. Whites could legally kill Black slaves who resisted their “correcting” him or her from some offense.
Ibid, p. 65.

Intermarriage between black and whites in the 17th and 18th c. Virginia prompted the passage of a law in 1705 that prohibited the practice and imprisoned whites for 6 months. It was not until a 1967 Supreme Court decision that all state an local prohibitions against intermarriage we outlawed as unconstitutional.
Ibid, p. 65.

In 1671 the case of an orphaned child who had inherited Black slaves prompted the decision on how to rank slaves. If treated like real estate, the slaves could not be disposed of until the child was 21. But if the slaves were considered as hogs or other livestock which might die and lose their value, then the child could sell the slaves now. The court ruled that the latter was more reasonable to protect the interests of the child.
Ibid, p. 66.


The Black Migration West

Horace Greeley said “Go west young man”, but he was adamant that the new lands “shall be reserved for the benefit of the White Caucasian race.”
“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart, p.50.

African Americans were among the first non-Native American settlers of the Ohio Valley. Most Black immigrants were servants in the White households but generally were not slaves. Most eventually obtained and farmed small parcels of land.

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was a black man and the first to settle what became known as Chicago, Illinois.

Internal Slave Trade – The opening of passages over the Appalachians to slave owners in the late 18th and early 19th centuries brought about the first major internal migration of African Americans in American history.

Approximately 100,000 African Americans were uprooted from settled communities in the upper South and forced to West between 1790 and 1810. This western movement of slaveholders, combined with the closing of the international slave trade, created a strong internal market for slaves in the United States.

Under Mexican rule, Blacks in Texas were free. The Black population before the mass influx of southerners were relatively small – 450 in 1792 and 2,000 in 1834. As southerners moved in, they brought their slaves with them and refused to manumit them as the law required. This led to growing friction between the Mexican and American governments.
Ibid., p. 51.

Nat Love, or “Deadwood Dick” as he called himself, was the most famous and outrageous of the thousands of Black cowboys who migrated West in the post-Civil War era. He remains famous today because he was the only Black cowboy to write his own autobiography. Although exaggerated, Nat Love’s autobiography conveys elements of Black cowboy life out West.

Four Northern states denied free Blacks the right to migrate into these states. Iowa passed an act in 1851 prohibiting the immigration of free Blacks into the state. The other 3 states, Illinois, Indiana and Oregon, adapted in 1848, 1851 and 1857, respectively – anti-Black immigration clauses as part of their state constitution.
Ibid. P. 52.

Emigration Back to Africa Movement

The first man to successfully transport Black Americans to Africa was Paul Cuffee (1759-1817), a Black ship owner. He appealed to the federal government and free Blacks to support his plan, and he successfully transported 38 African Americans to Freetown, Sierra Leone.
“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart, p.43.

In 1816 the American Colonization Society was founded by White philanthropists, slave owners, and Henry Clay. Its goal was to find an outlet for free Blacks who were being manumitted by slave owners in the upper South after the turn of the century. The society transported 86 Blacks to Africa in 1820 and established the settlement of Liberia in 1822. By the end of the decade, the society had relocated 1,162 people to Africa at a cost of $100,000. By 1850 the society had spent $1,800,000 to ship 10,000 African Americans to Liberia.
Ibid., p. 44.

Those African American who migrated to Liberia in the antebellum period did not leave their American culture behind. Indeed, they recreated an American lifestyle in Liberia. Most spoke the English language and built houses that resembled regal homes of the South. Indeed, the social life and customs of the migrants more closely resembled those of Victorian American than of West Africa. Many conceived of their role as that of a missionary brining civilization to the otherwise “backward” peoples.
Ibid., p. 46.

In 1849 Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first Black president of Liberia, requested the United States to buy territories adjacent to Liberia so that his country could police the West Coast of Africa from Sierra Leone to Cape Calmas, thereby helping to end the international slave trade. His proposal was rejected, but Congress did pass a law instruction the US president to send a naval fleet to the coast of West Africa to capture slave ships and resettle Africans in bondage in Liberia. The president put this policy into motion, and by 1867 some 5,700 Africans had been resettled to Liberia.
Ibid., pp. 46-7.

African American interest in emigration revived in the 1850’s because of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, the South’s zeal in pursuing runaway slave, and the North’s apparent acquiescence to salve power. When the Civil War erupted, interest in emigration among American Blacks plummeted.
Ibid., p.47.

Having declined in the 1860’s, African American emigration interest rose again after 1877 with the collapse of Radical Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South.
Ibid., p. 48.

Many would-be emigrants were frustrated by seemingly fraudulent operators. The Congo Company convinced potential migrants that a ship had been chartered and would leave for Liberia from Savannah in November 1890. The departure date was repeatedly postponed, but in January 1891 1,500 people converged on Savannah, expecting transport to Africa. Eventually it became clear that no ship was coming. Redemption finally came in the form of the Danish steamer Horsa, which on March 19, 1891 departed Savannah for Liberia.
Ibid., p. 48.

The most famous Black emigrationist was Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), a Jamaican who came to the US in 1916 and founded the American branch of his Universal Negro Improvement Association. Garvey believed that Black people would never be respected until they had their own independent nation in Africa. On June 27, 1919, he incorporated the Black Star Steamship Corporation. Selling stock for $5 a share, Garvey raised thousands of dollars, and purchased 3 ships, the Yarmouth, the Kanawha, and the Booker T. Washington. Garvey’s inexperience in running a shipping company, his incompetent assistants, and the real problem with the ships he purchased doomed his Black Star Line to financial catastrophe. Garvey was arrested for mail fraud in January 1921. He was convicted and incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. In 1927 President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence and he was deported back to Jamaica. Actually, the Back to Africa scheme was only one of many of Garvey’s programs, but it was the one that brought down his entire operation.
Ibid., pp. 49-50.

The Origins and Motives of The Enslavement

Slavery slowly disappeared in the North after the American Revolution. Agriculture was always the main use for slavery, but the states north of Maryland eventually moved to manufacturing and trade.
“Captive Bodies, Free Spirits: The Story of Southern Slavery”. p.7

When the English first settled what became the United States, there was no such thing as slavery in English law or tradition.
Ibid., p.16.

The first reason for slavery is economic. Slavery is also easier for the masters if they think the slaves are inferior people, not as good as the masters are. After all, the reasoning goes, if a group of people are ignorant, or backward, or “savages”, or not able to make anything of themselves, isn’t it better to put them to work to help people who are superior? That way, the “better” people can take care of the “inferior” people and make something good of them.
Ibid., p.17

The second reason for slavery, then was prejudice – the belief that certain people are not as good as you are.

When the English landed in Virginia, they found lots of land and Jamestown turned into a farming community. The smoking craze was sweeping Europe, and tobacco was precious because it was scarce. A problem developed because there was too much land and not enough workers, and all the Englishmen coming over wanted to be landowners. After the first Blacks came over as servants, later to be freed, the landowners began to see the benefit of slaves who could not leave.

By the time Thomas Jefferson sat down to write the Declaration of Independence in 1776, slavery had been a fact in the 13 colonies for more than a century. Benjamin Franklin did not own slaves, and as a printer he published pamphlets saying slavery was wrong. Even though Jefferson, owner and master of hundreds of slaves, did not think it right.
Ibid., p.21

When White people taught religion to slaves, the parts of the Bible they used most were the ones that told people to be patient and wait for Heaven, and to obey their masters while on earth.

Ibid., p.42

Evolution of the Enslavement of Africa People in Virginia

Sometime between 1619 and 1661 the laws governing punishment of Negro v. White indentured servants changed. It is not clear whether the laws were designed to change practice or were an endorsement of current practice.
Documentary History: p.16

1619 – The first African American arrive in Virginia as indentured servants.
Timelines: p.11

Evidence that some members of the first generation of Blacks in Virginia lived and worked on approximately the same terms as Whites of the same class is seen in the rise of the Anthony Johnson family. Johnson came to Virginia in 1621 as an indentured servant. After working off his years of servitude, he earned money, bought land, and began to bring in other indentured servants, both Black and White. Under the headright system, anyone who brought new workers into the colony was given 50 acres of land for each person. Johnson received 250 acres in 1651. Over the next few years, Johnson’s sons added another 650 acres for bringing in 13 servants. In time, the Johnson settlement on the Pungoteage River was one of the wealthiest African American communities in the area.
Timelines: p. 11

1648 – Even though many inventions and ideas created by Blacks were credited to Whites, not all were. The decision by the governor of the Virginia colony to begin the production of rice. On the advice of “our Negroes”, he wrote, rice was planted because the land and climate seemed comparable to that “in their Country”.
Timelines: p.14

1662 – Act XII: Dictated that Negro women’s children to serve according to the condition of the mother. 2:170
Documentary History: p.19 (as found in “The Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From the First Session of the Legislature In the Year 1619” by William Waller Henning)

1663 – In Gloucester County, Va. a major slave revolt by both Black and White indentured servants is foiled when a servant exposes the conspiracy.
Timelines: p. 15

1667 – Act III: Dictated that an act of Baptism does not exempt a slave from bondage. 2:260
Documentary History: p.19 (as found in The Statutes at Large…)

1670 – Virginia repeals a law that allows free slaves and indentured servants to vote.
Timelines: p. 15

1670 – Act V: Negroes and Indians cannot buy Christian servants. 2:280-81
Documentary History: p.19 (as found in The Statutes at Large…)

1670 – Act XII: Determined that Indians (all servants that have come by land) will be indentured until age 30, or adults for 12 years. Servants brought by sea (Africans) shall be slaves for life. 2:283
Documentary History: p.19 (as found in The Statutes at Large…)

1671 – The governor of Virginia estimates that the colony now has 2,000 slaves.
Timelines: p.16

1680 – Act X: Determined that no Negro or other slave may carry a firearm or arm himself with any club, staff, gun, sword, or other weapon. Slaves may not leave their master’s ground without a certificate, or they will be beaten. If a Negro hides (runs away) it will be lawful to kill the slave.
Documentary History: p.19 (as found in The Statutes at Large…)

1682 – This is the last year the indigenous people from non-Christian nations may enter the colony of Virginia as free men and women. Later, they are considered slaves.
Timelines: p. 16

1685 – A Virginia law makes it illegal for slaves to attend Quaker meetings held for educational purposes. Timelines: p. 16

1691 – The existence of free African Americans in Virginia is seen as a threat by White colonists, who pass a strict law to restrict manumissions.
Timelines: p. 17

1691 – Act XVI: Determined that all slaves living out and away from people may be killed by the local authorities and the owners of such slave 4,000 pounds of tobacco by the public. If a White woman intermarries with a Negro 3 months later she will be banished forever. If a White woman has a child by a slave she shall pay 15 pounds of sterling within a month of the child’s birth to the church wardens in the parish wherever the child is born. The child will be a servant until age 30. No slave may be set free unless its masters pay the cost of transporting it out of the country within 6 months.
Documentary History p.19 (as found in The Statutes at Large…)

When did each of the 13 original colonies legalize Slavery?


Massachusetts 1641
New York 1665
Rhode Island 1703
Georgia 1755
Connecticut 1650
South Carolina 1682
New Hampshire 1714
Virginia 1661
Pennsylvania 1700
North Carolina 1715
New Jersey 1702
Maryland 1663-64
Delaware 1721

Timelines: p. 20

1705 – In Virginia, African Americans are slaves for life unless they were Christians in their native land or were free in a Christian country.
Timelines: p. 20

1705 – Virginia (and NY) pass laws stating that slaves cannot become free by Christian baptism.
Timelines: p. 20

1708 – Virginia has 12,000 African Americans
Timelines: p. 20

1710 – The governor of Virginia officially frees a slaves names Will for his service in exposing a slave revolt.
Timelines: p. 20

1724 – Free African Americans in Virginia are forbidden by law to carry weapons or to meet or visit slaves.
Timelines: p. 22

1725 – In Williamsburg, Va. a Black Baptist church is founded.
Timelines: p. 22

The Wilmington Riot of 1898

On November 11, 1898 there was a riot in the city of Wilmington, NC. Similar to what would later happen in Rosewood, Fla., many Blacks were killed by Whites, but in this instance the town was left standing. Not much has been written about the “Wilmington Massacre”, one of the few sources on the subject is the book “Cape Fear Rising“. The following information is taken from that book, and interviews with people from Wilmington, NC.

Setting: In 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina (on the Cape Fear River) was a thriving town of some 25,000 residents, both Black and White. In addition to Blacks having most of the jobs as stevedores and tradesmen, there was also a growing middle class of Black professionals such as lawyers and businessmen. Rumor has it that the Cape Fear River was named after the point on the river where “fear” was instilled in slaves to keep them docile. Possibly as proof of this theory, there is a spot on the river called Nigger Head Point, where it is said that the heads of runaway slaves were placed as a warning to other slaves who might consider running away.

Motive: The political atmosphere in the city of Wilmington is controlled by the Republican party, who support growing Black middle class. The thriving Black population, combined with the Republican power on the Board of Aldermen, is seen as a threat to many non-Republican, non-Blacks in the city. A local election is fast approaching and since Blacks also outnumber Whites in the city, there is concern over who they may vote into office.

Leading up to the election, undocumented stories of Blacks committing crimes against Whites are published in the local daily papers. Though there is no proof of the incidents, the tension in the town increases. On election day, Blacks are kept from the voting booths in many ways, sometimes under threat of death. The result is that White Supremacists are voted into many public offices. There has been no bloodshed but the tension remains.

The Event: Shortly after the election, a Black activist is targeted and word is sent out that he must leave town or be lynched. The next day, hundreds of members of The Wilmington Light Infantry and the Naval Reserve march through the Black “Brooklyn” section of Wilmington looking for this individual. He is not found, but in the process homes are burned, shots get fired and a riot breaks out. The shooting started at the intersection of Harnett and Fourth Streets. Though some Blacks have guns, they are no match for the trained soldiers. During the massacre, rumors are circulating that mobs of Blacks are on the way to attack. No mobs ever appear, but the rumors are sufficient to keep the riot going. In the midst of the city at war with itself, in what may have been planned months in advance, the Mayor, the Chief of Police and Board of Aldermen are forced to resign and nominate certain individuals to take their places.

Blacks are leaving the city in droves, some hiding in the Oakdale Cemetery, some in the swamps down by the river. It is estimated that between 120 and 150 people died during the riot. Most, if not all, were Black. It is in the midst of all this confusion that a list of names is produced. The list includes Black professionals: preachers, lawyers, merchants, restaurateurs, barbers, politicians, policeman’s, as well as Whites sympathizers. Everyone on the list is rounded up and immediately put on trains and shipped out of the city. When the dust settled, the entire Black middle class of Wilmington, North Carolina has disappeared. All their property was redistributed to the White residents of the city, and the new city government made sure there was no record of the prior ownership.

The men who hijacked the city government, were responsible for the deaths of innocent Blacks, who drove out all opposition party members, who eliminated the entire Black middle class in Wilmington, went on to long and distinguished careers in state and federal government and where hailed as heroes for many years. Statues of some of them still stand in Wilmington.


The Middle Passage from Africa to Enslavement

On average, 2 of every 10 Africans died on the ships during the voyage to enslavement in America, though death rates varied greatly from ship to ship. The death rates declined in the 18th and 19th centuries as ships and sailing methods improved, but increased after the slave trade was outlawed in the United States in 1808.

“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart, p.13

During the voyage, the men were shackled two by two, with the right wrist and ankle of one man connected to the left wrist and ankle of another. The slaves were forced to sleep without covering on bare wooden floors. In a stormy passage, the skin on the elbows might be worn away to bare bone. Women and children were allowed to wander the deck during the day, however, the women were considered fair prey for the white sailors.


Captains used one of two methods for housing the Africans, known as Loose Packing or Tight Packing. Those who preferred loose packing believed that by allowing slaves greater room, air and sanitary conditions, more would survive the voyage and bring greater profit. The theory behind tight packing was that by squeezing more people in the ship, the greater number would offset the increased death rate.


Africans found ways to protest the “tight-packing”. Doctors would sometimes take off their shoes when they went down into the holds of the ships because they could not walk without stepping on human beings. The doctors reported that the Africans bit and pinched them so much they had bruises on their feet.


Doctors on the slave ships were paid head money for each Slave that made it to America in good health. (This was an incentive for the doctors to take good care of the Slaves.) Many of these “doctors” were not doctors at all, but simply men experienced in the use of leeches. Most Slaves survived due to their own good health or fortitude, not due to the ministrations of the shipboard doctor.


During the Middle Passage, the greatest killer of Africans was disease. Scurvy, dysentery, smallpox and others spread like wildfire through the cramped quarters. And not just the slaves were infected. The French slave ship La Rodeur was infected by opthalmia in 1819, causing the slaves and the entire crew to become blind. Most eventually recovered, but the 39 Africans who did not were thrown overboard to avoid reinfesting the rest.


Africans were sometimes murdered by ship captains who thought rations were getting low. These “losses” were covered by insurance. After an incident in 1781 aboard the British vessel Zong in which over 100 Africans were tossed or jumped overboard, the British Parliament passed laws regulating the terms under which insurance would be paid for losses during transport.


Africans would sometimes even commit suicide rather than be enslaved, sometimes jumping off a ship or canoe and staying underwater until drowned.


Mutinees by the Africans was not unheard of, either while still on the coast of Africa or while at sea. In 1730 the 96 Africans aboard the Little George took control of the ship. The crew members who were not tossed overboard locked themselves in a cabin with arms and ammunition hoping the Africans would not be able to navigate the unfamiliar ship. Though it took longer than expected, the “crew” successfully returned the ship to Africa and escaped.


If surplus food existed at the end of a voyage, the Africans were often overfed in order to “fatten them up” for market.

Ibidp. 19

Many captive Africans feared they would be eaten by the Europeans. Cannibalism provided a logical explanation for the failure of the captured to ever return. Traders exploited this fear by threatening to eat the Africans if they did not obey.


Slave Revolts and Rebellions

1712 – A slave revolt threatens to destroy New York City. In April, 20-30 African Americans and a few Native Americans set fire to a building and ambushed several Whites that came to put out the flames. After several Whites had been either killed or wounded a general alarm was sounded. Within a day, soldiers were brought in and stopped the rebellion. Following a trial, 20 slaves were executed for their participation in the revolt. As a result of the revolt, New York passed the 1712 Slave Act to suppress insurrections, Massachusetts enacted a law against further importation of slaves into that colony, and Pennsylvania instituted high taxes to restrain African importations.

“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart, p. 28.

1739 – On September 9 approximately twelve slaves revolted in Stono, South Carolina. Led by a recently arrived Angolan slave, the group killed two White men guarding a warehouse, took weapons found inside and marched southward to escape to freedom in what was then St. Augustine, Spanish Florida. During their march, other Blacks joined the group, eventually bringing the total to over seventy-five. The group was discovered ten miles from Stono and attacked by an armed militia. The resulting battle claimed the lives of twenty-five Whites and Fifty-five Blacks. The Stono Rebellion led to a temporary decline in the importation of Africans to South Carolina.

Ibid., p 29.

1791 – The Haitian Revolution began on August 22 and ended on January 1, 1804 and was the only rebellion to liberate an entire slave population. Inspired by the French Revolution, slaves in St. Dominique succeeded in overthrowing the White planter class, repulsing the French Army, and defeating the Spanish and British forces. The revolutions success is attributable to it’s outstanding leader General Toussaint l’Ouverture, who outwitted all three European forces with tactics that foreshadow modern guerrilla warfare.

Ibid., p.29

1800 – 24 year old Gabriel Prosser organizes a slave revolt in Richmond, Va. On the eve of the battle against 600 troops, a bridge washed out Prosser’s army of 1,000 broke up. In addition, it was later learned that two slaves had told their masters of Prosser’s plan.


1811 – On January 8, 4-500 slaves led by Charles Dislondes revolted on a plantation near New Orleans. They marched from plantation to plantation, sending Whites fleeing. They were finally stopped by militiamen and army regulars. Many were killed, many escaped. Those that were captured were beheaded and their heads displayed on the road from the plantations where they started to New Orleans, as a message to other would-be rebel slaves.

Ibid., p. 30.

1822 – Denmarke Vesey, a freed slave, constructed a plan to overthrow Charleston on July 14 in what is known as The Denmark Vesey Conspiracy. A slave revealed the plan to White planters and on May 31 2 of his lieutenants were arrested. To thwart his enemies plans he moved the attack date to June 16. On June 14 another slave revealed his plan and he and his conspirators were arrested and hanged.

Ibid., p. 31.

1831 – Nat Turner leads the bloodiest slave revolt in U.S. history in Southampton, Virginia. Nat read the stars and interpreted the February 12 eclipse of the sun as a sign from God. On August 21, Nat and his allies began killing all White people they encountered, beginning with Nat’s master’s family. The revolt was eventually stopped by hundreds of White volunteers and militia. Turner escaped and eluded capture, hiding in an underground cave. He was caught four months later, tried and hanged. After his death, his body was skinned and grease made with his flesh. A money purse was made with his hide. For many years his skeleton was in the possession of a Dr. Massenberg, but has since been misplaced.

Ibid., p.32

Escapes From Enslavement

Why would enslaved Africans attempt to escape?

Drapetomania – The disease that caused Negroes to run away (according to Samuel Cartwright of the University of Louisiana, “They must be sick.”)
“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart, p. 36.

Ellen and William Craft – in 1847 these slaves, who had a talent for cross-dressing, escaped enslavement in Georgia by disguising themselves. Ellen, who was very light-skinned, posed as an elderly White gentleman and the owner of a slave traveling with him (William). The cover story was that the slave owner was traveling to Philadelphia for emergency medical treatment. The Crafts made it safely to Boston where they told their story. Word of their method of escape eventually reached their owners and, using the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, they sent slave catchers to Boston to retrieve them. The Crafts again fled, this time to London. After the Civil War they returned to America and bought a plantation near their old home in Savannah, Georgia.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 – A slave owner had to simply produce an affidavit that he or she had ownership of a slave, bring the affidavit to a judge, along with the slave, and the reputed slave would be remanded by the judge to the slave holder’s custody. The law also demanded that sheriffs and marshals assist those who came North looking for fugitives. The law was written in the Compromise of 1850 to satisfy the South, but resulted in opposition to slavery becoming even more fierce and widespread.

The first person arrested under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was James Hamlet, who was seized in New York.
Ibid., p. 37.

Henry “Box” Brown – In 1856 Henry Brown, a slave in Richmond, Va., ordered a 3x2x8 box and put in a jug of water, a few biscuits and a bar to open if from the inside. A friend addressed the box to the home of an abolitionist in Philadelphia, and marked the box “Handle with Care” and “This Side Up“. After 26 hours the box was opened in the Philadelphia office of the Anti-Slavery Society and Henry Brown was free.

Rebels Against Enslavement

In the 16th century, the New World opened for European colonization. The European powers tried to enslave the indigenous people living in the Caribbean Islands to do the back breaking work of growing sugar canes, but ran into a wall of resistance. The natives (“Indians” to Christopher Columbus because he thought he was in India) ran away to the mountains or died of disease and exhaustion. The importation of African slave became a viable alternative. Arab dealers in cooperation with warring African kings provided a steady supply of captives from West Africa and brought to the Caribbean.

They worked until they died or ran away. No need to spend much time looking for runaway slaves, always new ones coming.

Rebels Against Slavery, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, p. 11.

The first large-scale slave uprising took place on the plantation of Christopher Columbus’ son Diego, in 1522 on the island of Hispaniola.


Slavery in the Caribbean and South America served as models for North American slavery. Slavers boasted that Africans coming from the Caribbean had been “broken in at seasoning stations.”

Ibid., p.12

The first serious slave conspiracy in colonial America was in Gloucester County, Virginia in 1663, when White indentured servants and slaves plotted to overthrow their masters and escape. Their plot was exposed by an informant and they were all either killed, beaten or branded. After this and other cooperative incidents, slave masters quickly realized they could not allow White indentured servants and slaves to become allies. SO every effort was made to keep the two groups separate and in conflict.

Ibid., p. 14.

A series of laws were passed, restricting the fights of slaves and free Blacks. One law, passed in 1664, forbade interracial marriages between Blacks and English women. This law stayed in the books of some states until the early 1970’s.


According to historians, “Race and racism provided the excuse slaveowners needed to allow themselves to own slaves without feeling guilty.

Ibid., p. 15.

Carolina, which later separated into North Carolina and South Carolina, enacted one of the most stringent set of laws governing slaves to be found in the New World. The hours of working slaves were set at no more than 15 hours per day between March 25 and September 25 and no more than 14 hours per day between September 25 and March 25. That translated from “can to can’t” in slave language, which meant from “can see in the morning to can’t see at night”.

Ibid., p. 16.

Georgia slave code, adopted in 1755, was taken from South Carolina. Seven Blacks “being out together constituted a mob”, master encouraged not to teach their slaves to read and write. When it became clear that chattel slavery was replacing the indentured system, resistance increased. In 1688, a group if Pennsylvania Quakers were the first Whites to protest slavery in an official written document.


Come back often. Any questions or comments may be sent to



“Sins of The Fathers: A Study of the Atlantic Traders 1441-1807”, by James Pope-Hennessey

“Lynch-Law: An Investigation Into the History of Lynching in the United States” By James Cutler

“A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women In America”, by Darlene Clark Hine and Kathleen Thompson

“Black Pioneers – Images of the Black Experience on the North American Frontier”, by John W. Ravage

“Black Jacks – African American Seamen in the Age of the Sail”, by W. Jeffrey Bolster.

“Timelines of African American History: 500 Years of Black Achievement”, by Tom Cowan, Ph.D, and Jack Maguire.

“A Documentary History of Slavery In North America”, by Willie Lee Rose.

“Cape Fear Rising”, by Philip Gerard.

“1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History”, by Jeffrey C. Stewart.

Rebels Against Slavery”, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack.

“Captive Bodies, Free Spirits: The Story of Southern Slavery” by William J. Evitts.

“Let My People Go – African Americans 1804-1860”, by Deborah Gray White.