Slavery is the forceful capture of somebody against his or her will with the purpose of forcing him or her to perform a given duty under the supervision of another person most often, the slave master. In the periods around the 15th century, slavery became a widespread thing in the whole world. Mostly persons of African descent were captured and sold off to the over sea countries to go and work for white masters. This was unfortunately facilitated by certain persons known as middle men and it marked a dark period in the history of mankind.
Organization of slave rebellions and uprising
Considering the delicate nature of the issue of revolting against a backdrop of strict slavery policies, these rebellions had to be carefully planned. To some extent, certain rebellions managed to achieve this like for instance in the 1822 Denmark Vesey led revolt and the 1811 Charles Deslonde led Louisiana rebellion only to fail due to betrayal. Others did not have high levels of organization and this explains the reasons for their failure. Organization was done at two major levels/; the individual level and the group level. Since all the slaves in most cases harbored same ideas, individual plans would be swallowed by group plans. At individual levels the slaves would exhibit signs of rebellion through doing among other things: damaging tools, lowering their work rate and production potential intentionally, resorting to arson attacks on property, periodically resorting to violence to have their say and in extreme cases escaping if there was any chance to do so. At the group level, the leaders would divide the rebel group into small effective groups. Generally all the ideas pertaining to the strategies to be adopted by any rebellions lay with the master minders. Apart from the master minders and their contributions to the rebellions growth, there also existed a group of people known as abolitionists whose aims were to popularize the plight of the slaves through awareness campaigns. One such person is David Walker. He was an abolitionist of an African American descent whose literature purposed to incite the slaves into violence. He vehemently opposed the slavery system having managed to escape from slavery at the age of ten. He therefore played a bigger part in creating awareness and providing potential solutions to the problems that faced the slaves.
Examples of rebellions and uprisings that occurred between 1800 and 1831
The period between 1800 and 1831 witnessed key revolutions and rebellions in the slave community both within and without the peripherals of the United States of America. These were however preceded by other equally formidable revolts in other parts of the world the most outstanding of course being the Haitian Rebellion. This revolution projected into the limelight the undoubted power of slave revolt. This acted to instill fear among the slave owners who were left to live in fear of potential insurrections. Major rebellions have been documented to have transpired during this time as discussed below:
Gabriel Prosser's rebellion (1800)
This rebellion is documented to have taken place during the spring season of 1800. Its mastermind was one Mr. Gabriel Prosser whose religious affiliations were unquestionable. His strategy involved majorly seizing a large amount of arsenal from the Richmond area of Virginia State and distributing it to his large group of dissenting slaves. By the time the season turned summer, he had managed to make significant progress in attainment of his strategy. This is because he had managed to take into his possession enough arsenals to equip his 1000-people rebel group. With this, he managed to organize the first wide spread slave rebellion in the history of United States of America. His rebellion however did not live to its billing as the first major revolt as its plans never materials. This was as a result of inconveniences caused by the bridge leading to Richmond collapsing due to floods and elements of betrayal within the rebel camp. As a result Possier and about 35 of his men were arrested by the state militia and executed. This led to its ceasure.
Louisiana revolts (1811)
This is one of the largest slave revolutions in the US history in as far as the number of participating slaves is concerned. It involved about 500 slaves the highest number of slaves to have been recorded. The enslaved population outnumbered that of their masters and this added to the high prospects of a slave revolution. Its occurrence was identified to have been concentrated at two main parishes; St. Charles Parish and St. James Parish both in the newly formed state of Louisiana. Having learnt lessons from the Haitian revolt, the slaves under the stewardship of one Mr. Charles Deslonde, managed to revolt in two major parishes situated in the New Orleans city suburbs. Owing to the large numbers of slaves involved, the organization of this rebellion had to be of high standards and yes it was. Smaller effective groups were drawn from the huge revolution. It is interesting to note that the growth of this revolution depended on the number of plantations in the state. Plantations included the Meuillon plantation (the largest plantation). Due to betrayal by a member of the rebel faction, the government troops moved in and subdued the rebellion before it would live to its dreams of liberalizing the enslaved individuals. The leaders arrested were arrested and their heads chopped off as a way to terrorize any persons intending to hold any revolts. All these happened against a backdrop of Louisiana’s recent incorporation into the United States of America after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Fort Blount revolt (1816)
In this case, three hundred slaves, the Indian population of Florida and allies of Native American descent took control of the Fort Blount area on Apalachicola Bay in the Florida state of America for days. They also united in a true fashion of rebels to offer resistance to the US army troops when they came calling days later. However due to their small numbers and lack of effective weaponry they were overpowered by the strong army.
Denmark Vesey's revolt (1822)
In this case, Denmark Vesey having been accorded high social standing and more breathing space as a result of being a skilled laborer. Due to this, he managed to buy out his freedom and settle in a nearby town. His analysis of the life of slavery made him discover so many injustices that he planned a revolt to save the slaves from oppression. Hel likened his plan to that of Moses delivering the Israelites out of bondage as documented in the bible owing to his deep religious affiliations. After careful planning, he rallied his troops in quest for freedom. It was deemed to be the best planned revolt of all that failed because of an act of betrayal. Just like in the previous cases, Vesey alongside some of his men were captured and publicly executed. This marked yet another failed attempt at obtaining freedom
Race riot of Cincinnati in the American state of Ohio (1829)
As a result of increased killing of young men and biased decisions by the administration through its police wing, huge numbers of African American citizens about 1,000 in number fled the Cincinnati city in Ohio State to Canada. A spate of planned riots rocked the city from one end to the other leading to great losses in the commercial sector. The widespread protests were stopped by curfews imposed on the downtown regions of the city wherein much revolt had been witnessed.
Nat Turner's revolt (1831)
This has so far been credited as the most successful rebellions in the American history. It might have lacked the high organizational skills of other rebellions but its effects were far more felt. His rebellion was concentrated in the southern Unite States of Americas state if Virginia. He also was an American with African descent. Just like in Denmark Vesey’s case, he believed his mission was a calling from God. He managed to kill 60 white families his owner included but had his troop dismantled and quashed completely by the American troops. He was captured at a later date, convicted and hanged. He might not have led the biggest of rebellions but he surely conducted the most successful of all rebellions.
Causes of slave rebellion
Slavery had existed for far too long and time had come for it to end. Increased dissent among slaves and need for equality and freedom on their part pushed the slaves into rebellious acts that were witnessed as early as 1650’s and spread so fast in the 19th century. Rebellion became the order of the day in various parts of the world. The following reasons have therefore been accredited for having fuelled the urge for revolts (special reference made to the Nat Turner led revolution of 1831).
Concerns for equality and freedom. In the name of seeking for freedom and equality, the slaves chose to revolt as a sure way to express their displeasure and voice their intentions. Certain slaves in desperate measures resorted to escape as the surest way to gain personal freedom. However, with the existence of abolitionists such as David Walker, this was modified into a common agenda so that the freedom of every slave was to be sought. Equality would therefore follow once freedom had been obtained.
Successful revolutions by the Haitians: The much famed Haiti liberalization from oppressive rule added salt to the injury for most slave owners. As soon as other slaves learnt of the power of the masses as exhibited in the case of Haiti, they also stepped up their quest for personal freedoms. The matters brought into the limelight by the Haitian revolution incited many slaves especially in America into widespread revolts. This was however not to be as the American administration adopted far more stringent measures to counter act this growing ideology of freedom.
The ideologies perpetrated by the Yankee population to the slaves: The governor of North California in his response to the governor of Virginia’s question on the causes of the widespread rebellion listed the Yankee population as a likely source. He argued that the Yankees most specifically through its traders and peddlers proclaimed Christianity to the slavers thereby raising their spirits of insubordination. They convinced the slavers into believing that they also deserved equality and freedom like their white masters. After all it was upon these very ideals that the Americans rallied for their independence from Britain in the years leading up to 1776 when they achieved independence.
Reasons for failure of the slave revolutions
The slave revolts recorded to have happened ended up being squashed no matter how well they would have been planned. This is traced to one major reason; differences in the types of arsenal used by the rebels and those used by the government militias. While the rebels had in their possession simple war tools like knives, hoes and in rare circumstances few guns, the government militias had more advanced weaponry in guns that they used to effectively quash out revolts. This was the major undoing of the rebel groups that always forced them into slavery. Apart from lack of proper fighting equipment, certain instances of betrayal and back biting were witnessed. A classic example is the case of the Possier led revolution of 1800 that had sufficiency of armory and man power but lacked the unity required as it failed due to acts of betrayal. Another seemingly well coordinated revolt that fell due to betrayal on the part of its members was the Charles led Louisiana revolution. Betrayal also played the biggest role in the collapse of the Denmark Vesey led insurrection.
Government response to the uprisings based on the Turner led rebellion of 1831
After two days of heightened animosity generated by the rebellious slave movement, the government had to step in. The two days had been enough for the slave movement to write history as the largest slave rebellion ever witnessed in the United States of American rich history. So many deaths both in the slave (predominantly the black community in the United States of America) and slave owners (predominantly the white community who were a representation of the larger American community) camps had been recorded. This was the highest ever statistics to have been recorded. The measures adopted by the government were far crueler and completely quashed the uprising. Being only two days old, the measures deployed by the government were far too harsh from my point of view. The government dispatched a battalion of about three thousand soldiers to quell the rebellion. In this way the government had succeeded in stopping the rebellion from reaching its intended destination – Jerusalem. Most of the members of the rebellion were killed, dispersed or subdued. Turner himself was arrested by the government forces in the month of October. Fearless as he had been in organizing the rebellion, he pleaded to the charges leveled against him of having planned and masterminded the uprising hat resulted into widespread bloodshed. As a result he was tried, convicted and handed death sentence. His execution consequently came in the following month in Jerusalem where he was not only hanged but also skinned. This brutal method adopted against Turner was definitely intended to sound a warning to any intended rebellions. This ultimately marked the end of the rebellion.
Consequences of the rebellion
The rebellion had far reaching effects that remained to ultimately shape the history of the United States of America. In a way, the rebellion brought more harm than good to the slave community. Among the consequences were:
Mass killings of the African-American people. The white community, obviously filled with paranoia of a possible larger revolution, organized themselves into gangs that went about murdering scores of African-American citizens. This was despite the fact that these citizens were completely free of blemish. A potential massacre as it seemed to be considering he nature and persons killed, led to the death of approximately 200 African American citizens residing in the south eastern state of Virginia. Sadly enough even slaves who resided as far as North Carolina were accused of having had a bearing on the uprising. They were also convicted for having participated in the rebellion though in absentia and killed.
Introduction of oppressive policies by the government. Fearing a larger insurgence of the slave rebellion, the American government through its Virginia state decided to introduce far stringent laws as concerned the slaves’ welfare and the black population in general. These new amendments touched mostly on the basic rights of movement, association or assembly and education. This meant that the slaves had been condemned into oppressive lifestyles characterized by illiteracy and solitude.
Death of some rebels and slave owners: Turner and his charges had managed to kill about 60 white families in their onslaught before the forces quashed their group. In defense, the white families had managed to take out about 56 rebels who were predominantly of black origin. These deaths were among the results of the most successful rebellion in slave insurgence history.
Even though the rebellions did not achieve the purposes for which they were staged i.e. to obtain freedom and equality on the part of the slave community, their contributions towards abolition of slave trade in the long term cannot be ignored. Major rebellions such as the Haitian revolution of 1752 and later the Jamaican revolution in led to achievement of independence on their parts as countries. The contribution of the smaller scale rebellions like the ones discussed above and many more that occurred before and after the stated time lines, also added to the unilateral decision to banish slave trade.
Owing to the matters discussed here, we must give credit to the strong men who stood up to be counted in the fight against this deadly vice slavery. Their contributions no matter how trivial they could possibly be contributed to the abolition of slave trade not in the United States of America but also at the global stage. They helped shape up the course of history in a great way. Having learnt from the past mistakes, we should never let any dehumanizing programs to crop up lest we plunge into the ways of slavery. Every rebellion no matter how many lives it claimed was justified because freedom never comes the easy way. It has to be fought for.