10 Famous Slave Revolutions
10 Famous Slave Revolutions

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

Maria - July 6, 2016

Slave revolts have often been recognized as one of the most important events in history that have helped to shape the world. From time to time, they structured the course of evolution of the society. When the oppressor crossed his limits, the slaves took charge of the situation and changed the course of time. History has seen a number of slave revolts. These rebellions have well-marked significances too. They have shaped the norms of society and to some extent, the economic hierarchy. They have occurred in all societies that had been practicing slavery for a long time until someone rose to the occasion to put an end to the torture inflicted by the slave masters.

In the early days, all people were equal in ranks, and there was, therefore, no question of the existence of slaves or their masters. But with the passage of time and the dawn of new eras, some people gained immense power and resources and started imposing their wills upon the deprived ones. Hence, the class of slaves emerged. The unequal distribution of power served some people too well and consequently started to abuse their powers. History has examples to show the torture that the slaves faced. While some people could tolerate the situation (possible because they had no much options), others decided to mobilize their fellow slaves so as to put an end to the inhumane conditions or torture they were going through. The rise of slaves revolts was tremendous forces that were unleashed to bring an end to the inhuman torture that they went through, sometimes because their fundamental rights were denied while sometimes because their bare minimal necessities weren’t met. Various parts of the world have seen such slave revolts and some of them have been famous enough to leave a mark in the pages of history.

Here is a list of ten famous slave revolts that have sketched the canvas of history for eternity and beyond.

10. The Haitian Revolution

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

The Haitian Revolution was led by Toussaint L’Ouverture against the French colonial rulers. The shedding years of the 18th century was a tough time for Saint Domingue as it expelled the French Government, leading to the establishment of the Independent Empire of Haiti. The revolt started in 1791 and lasted for 13 years, till 1804. The slaves rose to revolt against their masters and self-liberated themselves by demolishing slavery in all forms. The Haitian Revolution had a tremendous outcome and led to the formation of a state, completely free from slavery, ruled by non-whites. Intensive research and study of the revolution showed that this revolution had several defining moments regarding the racial histories of the Atlantic world. The revolution started because the black slaves were deemed as an inferior class and were denied of their basic freedoms. During that time, Saint Domingue was a very profitable land as it used to produce 60% of the world coffee and 40% of the world sugar. So, when the revolt broke out, both the sides tried their best to hold on to the land to utilize the resources it produced, both in the raw and monetary form. The French Revolution also had a great impact on the revolt at Saint Domingue.

9. Revolt by Spartacus

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

Spartacus was a rebel slave leader who revolted against the Roman Republic. He was a Thracian Gladiator, who was supported by Gauls, Oenomaus, Gannicus and some other tribes, to bring about a great revolution in the society. The revolt by Spartacus was successful enough to shape the political background of the society then. This was one of the early slave wars of oppressed people fighting for their rights. However, there are some contradictions regarding the objective of the revolt as some of the rebel leaders were found to commit atrocities upon the less privileged. Most historians have a forked view about its purpose. Some believe that the main aim was to free men and return them to their homes. They also propose the fact that the rebellions wanted to escape the Italian peninsula, but this has been deemed controversial as it doesn’t explain why they headed south after defeating Consuls Lucius even though they had a clear passage to the Alps. Also, the Romans couldn’t have a sound impact due to their divided attention on the revolt at Hispania and the third Mithridatic war. But as soon as the extended Roman forces were called in from Pompeii, the final battle marked the defeat of Spartacus. The war had a dramatic end with about six thousand survivors being crucified lining the way from Rome to Capua.

8. The German Coast Uprising

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

The Germany Coast Uprising took place in 1811 in the territory of Orleans. The local slaves, led by Charles Deslondes, were supported by the plantation workers who took two days marching towards the city of New Orleans. It is reported as the largest revolt ever witnessed in the U.S history. The rebels conquered the East Bank of Mississippi and burned down five plantation houses along their march and several sugarhouses, and crops. Though they did not have any artillery, they were armed with hand tools. The whites brutally suppressed the revolt, and the convicts were executed either by hanging or decapitation. The heads of the leaders were put on pikes, and some of their bodies were hung to display a clear warning to any other revolters. The whites killed about 95 slaves from Africa in the two days of battle.

7. The English Peasants’ Revolt

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

Commonly known as Wat Tyler’s Rebellion or the Great Rising, the English Peasants’ Revolt led to socio-economic tensions which shaped its course in history to some extent. London was the main site of unrest where the dictators oppressed the farmers and treated them as slaves. The revolt broke out in Essex in 1381. The peasants taking part in the rebellion came armed in minor forces, marched along Thames and burned down houses. They even took over the Tower of London. While the revolt was carried out in moderation, it was very well executed and had remarkable results. The revolution soon dwindled after the death of the leader, Wat Tyler. The remaining commotion was eventually suppressed, and the flames were put out in no time. Several laws were enforced to prevent further breakouts and the government re-established its former state of peace.

6. The Zanj Rebellion

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

The Zanj Rebellion took place in the latter half of the 9th century between 869 A.D. and 883 A.D. The revolt took place in what is now recognized as the country of Iran. Zanj was a term used to refer to the East African and South-African Bantu people who were used as slaves in the then Arabic Lands. For this reason, the Zanj Rebellion was also known as the “Negro Revolution.” About 500,000 Zanj slaves and rebellions gathered under the command of Ali Bin Muhammad. Their revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate for freedom from slavery lasted for 12 years until Ali Bin Muhammad was killed in the battle and the Caliphate allowed the rebellions to join the army. Historians often refer to Zanj Rebellion as one of the earliest battles of the African people but are still unsure whether their numbers were large enough to call it the Negro Revolution. Nonetheless, it is considered as one of the important milestones in the history of slave revolution.

5. The Creole Slave Revolt

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

War and blood often define revolutions, but the Creole Slave Revolt stands out from the rest by being one of the best examples of adventure and romance in revolt. A ship named Creole sailed towards New Orleans containing as many as 135 slaves where they were to be sold. The revolt started when one of the ship’s crew, Madison Washington rose to the occasion and started making escape plans from the ship together with the other slaves. Washington was the ship’s cook, and when he was suspected for igniting a revolt inside, he led an attack with the slaves. In the ensuing battle, not many were killed, but the slaves were able to take control of the ship and force the crew to sail it to the Bahamas. The Bahamas was then a land against slavery, and when the ship reached the destination, all the slaves were released. Madison was tried along with his few conspirators but was later released. The background story of the entire revolt was based on the life of Madison Washington who was on a mission to find out his lost wife and amidst his quest, he was captured and sold to Creole. But as soon as he was released, he reunited with his wife as she was a slave of Creole from the very beginning, unknown to Madison. The Creole slave revolt is important in the pages of history as it marked the passing of the Negro Seaman Act in 1842 by the American Government.

4. The Baptist War

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

The Baptist War of 1831 is perhaps one of the famous slave revolts in Jamaica. About 20% or numerically, 60,000 of Jamaica’s Slaves went on a strike demanding a proper wage for survival and basic freedoms as a human being. They followed the footprints of the abolitionist movements in Great Britain and in the same way they revolted under the leadership of Samuel Sharpe, a Baptist preacher. When the revolt turned into a war, about 10% of the slaves were slaughtered and hanged without mercy but the war itself turned out to be one of the greatest slave revolts of that era. Although Samuel Sharpe lost his life during the course of the war, his life was not wasted in vain as within a year or so, slavery was completely banned from the British Empire. Thus, the Baptist War is not only significant as a great uprising of the tortured class of the society but also as an end to the war of centuries, between the slaves and their masters, for freedom. The Baptist War is also known as the Christmas Rebellion, the Christmas Uprising or the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt.

3. Slave Revolt in the Cherokee Nation

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

The 19th century saw several famous slave revolt alongside the Baptist War – the 1842 Slave Revolt in the Cherokee Nation is one example. The Native American civilized tribe, named Cherokee, were not wealthy as other estate owners, and they bought black people as slaves. These slaves were used in various forms of works of slavery and were mostly suppressed by the owners. In the early days of November 1842, the slaves locked down the Cherokee masters in their log houses and ran away towards Mexico, which was a slave-free country. Consequently, when the Cherokees broke out of their log homes, they went in search of the escapees and after a point of time, they even got hold of them. The slaves fought back with ammunition, and two slave hunters were killed during the ensuing battle. The Cherokees were outnumbered and retreated for back-up. When soldiers were sent to hunt down the slaves by the Cherokee National Council, they were found to be out of resources and five of the convicted slaves were killed. The rest of the remaining slaves were exposed to severe torture and forced labor. However, the Cherokee slave revolt inspired many other slave revolts in the country which led to the passing of laws against keeping of slaves.

2. The Stono Rebellion

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

The Stono Rebellion, also known as Cato’s Conspiracy or Cato’s Rebellion, is one of the most enigmatic revolts of the early 18th century as the rebellion had mixed results. Led by an educated African slave named Cato, former African soldiers employed as slaves in Congo tried to travel to Spanish region where they were promised freedom. Most of the rebels, including Cato, were killed in the battle, and the rest were doomed to slavery for the rest of their lives after being sold to West Indies slave-owners. Although the Stono Rebellion led to the passing of acts such as punishment for oppression against slaves, it also faced defeat in the context of education. The same act that criticized and opposed slavery also restricted slaves from gatherings and barred them from being educated. Strict laws were passed forbidding people to teach the slaves. But the Stono Rebellion has its own place in history as it was the first time that slavery seemed to be on its path of extinction.

1. Nat Turner’s Rebellion

10 Famous Slave Revolutions

While Nat Turner’s Rebellion almost faced same consequences as the Stono Rebellion, it is considered as an important event in history, it being the reason of the death of a massive number of black slaves than any other slave war in the United States. Like Cato, Nat Turner, an educated black slave in the state of Virginia led one of the most dreadful uprisings of the slaves. Being a religious person, Nat supported his prophetic visions of slave revolts and initiated the rebellion on the solar eclipse of August 21, 1831. Along with his group of followers of about 70 black slaves, he killed several white people with sharp weapons like knives and clubs. Most of the rebellions were either murdered in the hunt led by the military or were hanged after being executed. But what followed is perhaps the most tragic incident in the pages of history. Hysteria ran through every lane of Southampton County, and innocent black slaves were brutally killed by the angry white mob, people, and soldiers. After the revolt was put to an end and as many as 300 black slaves (including the rebellions) killed, laws were passed to restrict black slaves from education to prevent the rise of another Nat Turner.

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